Mickey Katz

Simcha Time: Mickey Katz Plays Music for Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and Brisses

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Though he was perhaps the greatest exponent of klezmer in his day, or "Jewish jazz" as he called it, Mickey Katz was too modest to suggest such a thing. Most contemporary practitioners of the genre (including Don Byron, who has done much to revive the bandleader's work in recent years) sound anemic by comparison with the full-bodied sound of Mickey Katz & His Kosher Jammers, who can be heard in all their glory on this compilation album. If the joyous, high-spirited sessions preserved here sound like a group of top-notch musicians having the time of their lives, it is no accident. The recording studio was very much a party atmosphere, complete with Jewish soul food courtesy of the nearest kosher deli. And the sidemen -- including Benny Goodman's legendary trumpet player Ziggy Elman; trumpeter Manny Klein, one of the busiest sidemen on the West Coast; trombonist Si Zentner; pianist/arranger Nat Farber; and drummer Sam Weiss, who brought the klezmer sound to the Artie Shaw Orchestra -- were urged to pull out all the stops. Five previously unreleased tracks are included here, not to mention three selections from Katz's Broadway revue, Hello, Solly! That none of Katz's celebrated English-Yiddish parodies of 1950s pop songs appear on this Will Friedwald-produced compilation may be a blessing in disguise. The bandleader could be so wickedly funny -- machine-gunning the listener with wacky lyrics, outrageous bilingual puns, and vocal effects left over from his days with Spike Jones -- that the comedy sometimes obscured the brilliant musicianship on his now sought-after LPs.

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