Friday, December 23, 2016
I DUB THEE FAMOUS, FREDDY KATZ
September 11, 2013
To the family of Fred Katz:
I read of Fred’s death in the LA times and was sad to learn of it. He was a good part of my life.
I attended George Pepperdine College at 79th and Vermont in LA in 1953 and 1954. It was there that I learned about progressive jazz – on weekends my friends and I would go to Shelly’s Mann Hole and The Lighthouse. During the summer of 1955 my then-boyfriend and I discovered the Stroller’s Club in Long Beach, where Chico Hamilton and his Quintet were regulars. Freddy Katz played with them.
I was underage for going into that club, but we behaved ourselves, drank plain Cokes, and listened until the performance was over. Management let us stay. It was there that I learned that the cello, in the right hands, could make very modern and very interesting jazz. My date turned into my husband, and during our years together we always had those early progressive jazz musicians, including Freddy, on our record player.
Fred lasted longer than my marriage did. But I still loved that jazz and all those players – Brubeck, Chet Baker, Cal Tjader, Shelly Mann, Chico, Gerry Mulligan, Stan Getz, and, yes, Freddie Katz.
The last time I heard him perform was in the early nineties, I believe. I saw a little announcement in the Orange County Register announcing that he was giving a free jazz performance in a little church in Fullerton on a Sunday afternoon. Needless to say, I was there, and it was very, very special. At that time Fullerton had several little jazz spots where the young kids liked jazz, not rap. They were all there, filling the church. I ran into several friends from “the old days” – almost your Fred’s contemporaries – among those crowding the church. It was so good to see him and hear that he was still making such good music on that cello. Don’t get me wrong; he didn’t know me from Adam, but afterwards I did go up to him and mentioned that I had first seen him at the Strollers Club in Long Beach. He smiled and said, “Those were the days, weren’t they?”
I am now 78. I walk two miles every morning with my iPod buds in my ears. And what do I listen to? Actually, any progressive jazz CDs I can find, but among them, and often up for the day, is Chico Hamilton’s Studio recordings, featuring Fred Katz.
He meant a lot to me, and I will miss the idea of him still being with us. But he surely gave the world some good music. I just wanted your family to know there are a lot of little “me’s” of an age around yet who remember those wonderful sounds he brought out of his cello, and how he contributed to one of the special things in my life.