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Plays the Music of Mickey Katz

Plays the Music of Mickey Katz cover art

Track Listing

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1Prologue: "… shed no tears before the rain …" (Don Byron)1:08
2Frailach Jamboree (Mickey Katz)2:34
3Haim Afen Range ("Home on the Range") (Trad.)2:49
4Mamaliege Dance (Nat Farber / Mickey Katz)2:23
5Sweet and Gentle (Monterrey Portal / George Thorn)3:02
6Litvak Square Dance (Mickey Katz)2:08
7C'est Si Bon (Jerry Seelen / Henry Betti / Andre Hornez)2:27
8Trombonik Tanz (Nat Farber / Mickey Katz)3:14
9Bar Mitzvah Special (Louis Singer / Nat Farber)3:02
10Dreidel Song (Trad.)4:48
11Seder Dance (Mickey Katz, Khachaturian adapt.)2:12
12Paisach in Portugal (adapt. Raul Ferrao & Jimmy Kennedy)3:08
13Berele's Sherele (Benny Gill / Nat Farber)1:48
14Mechaye War Chanti (Mickey Katz, Ralph Freed & John Noble adapt.)2:50
15Kiss of Meyer (adapt. Lester Allan & Robert Hill)2:20
16Epilogue: Tears (Don Byron)7:12
17Wedding Dance (Mickey Katz)2:26

News & Reviews

  • Don Byron Revisits Nonesuch Albums for 50th Birthday Celebration at Jazz Standard

    Clarinetist/composer Don Byron celebrates his 50th birthday with a series of four different programs at New York's Jazz Standard, beginning tonight and running through Sunday. Opening the festivities this evening is Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz, in which Byron revisits his groundbreaking 1993 klezmer-rooted Nonesuch album of the same name. Next is music from Byron's classic 1996 release Bug Music, featuring works by Duke Ellington and others. On Saturday, the Don Byron Quartet takes the stage, and closing out the celebration on Sunday, Byron returns to his Nonesuch catalog and his Latin-focused 1995 recording, Music for Six Musicians.

About this Album

Don Byron, whose 1991 solo debut album Tuskegee Experiments was ranked among the year's top jazz recordings, returned in 1993 with The Music of Mickey Katz, the celebrated klezmer bandleader and Yiddish humorist.

Best-known today as the father of actor/comedian Joel Grey, Katz was a touring and recording star on Capitol Records in the 1950s. Byron, who began playing klezmer music at New England Conservatory in 1980, developed a particular identification with the style because of the unique possibilities it afforded the clarinet. He was especially attracted to Mickey Katz’s arrangements, which offered sophistication, wit, and a distinct emphasis on the ethnic and assimilative aspects of the Eastern European Jewish culture that produced the music.

The tunes on Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz were drawn from Katz’s recorded legacy, which Byron studied, transcribed off the old recordings, and adapted for a band of jazz musicians that he assembled and subsequently immersed in the fine stylistic points of the genre. Making their debut in 1990 in New York at Michael’s Pub with Joel Grey, the band was an instant hit. Following two sold-out weeks, Byron took the band downtown to the Knitting Factory, where wildly mixed crowds regularly came out for this intriguing mix of ethnic music, jazz, and humor. They later performed at Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, at the Montreal Jazz Festival, at clubs like SOB’s in New York, at university campuses, Jewish Community Centers, and throughout Europe, including shows at Vienna’s City Hall, and clubs in Hamburg, Munich, and Milan.

“At first, there was a lot of racial reaction to a black man being in this music, which was essentially restricted to a small community of Jewish kids pursuing some revival thing,” Byron remarked in a Wire magazine interview. “This I found kind of ironic, unfortunate ... because I think black people have been used to everyone just stepping up and claiming to be experts on black music. I never claimed that. I just wanted to participate, and if there’s anything I got out of my New York upbringing, it’s that I’m entitled to participate in anything I really want to.”

Indeed, Byron’s participation in a wide range of musical styles forms the basis of his artistic identity. His credits as a player, arranger, and bandleader extend from his jazz quintet, to his chamber music group Semaphore, to his Latin band, to a project featuring the music of Stephen Sondheim. He is a regular collaborator with guitarist Bill Frisell, and is much sought-after as a sideman, having performed with Craig Harris, David Murray, and Ralph Peterson, among others.

Don Byron Plays the Music of Mickey Katz extends the already considerable reputation of this imaginative, thoughtful, and virtuosic artist.


The Band:
Don Byron, clarinet, vocals (14), conductor
J. D. Parran, clarinet, bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, flute
Mark Feldman, violin, background vocals
Dave Douglas, trumpet, background vocals
Josh Roseman, trombone, horse lips, boat whistle, background vocals
Uri Caine, piano, background vocals
Steve Alcott, bass
Richie Schwarz, drums, percussion, xylophone
Lorin Sklamberg, lead vocals (5-8, 10-12, 15)
Avi Hoffman, lead vocals (3, 14), background vocals

Guest Artists:
Brandon Ross, guitars (1, 3)
Jerry Gonzalez, Latin percussion (5)
Dan Hovey, Hawaiian guitar (14, 16), guitar (14)
Jay Berliner, mandolin (12)
Loretta Malta, background vocals (12)
Rosalie Gerut, additional vocals

Produced by Hans Wendl
Recorded September 1992 at Master Sound, Astoria, New York
Engineer: Tom Lazarus
Assistant Engineer: David Merrill
Mastered by George Horn, Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, California

All transcriptions, re-arrangements, and re-orchestrations by Don Byron
Excerpts from the Original New York Cast album Hello, Sally! performed by Mickey Katz on tracks 1, 16 are used under license from Capitol Records

Design by: Stark Design
Cover photograph by: Cora Wells Braun

Executive Producer: Carol Yaple

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