Interview: Dick Katz - JazzWax

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July 22, 2009


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Don Brown

Dick Katz made a lovely album for Atlantic Records titled Piano and Pen. It consists of two quartet sessions recorded in December of 1958 and January of 1959. The catalogue number is 1314. Dick's sidemen are Chuck Wayne (on the first date), Jimmy Raney (on the second), Joe Benjamin and Connie Kay. From the moment I heard that album I became a devoted Dick Katz admirer. His presence on any recording has always been a plus for me.

Red Colm O'Sullivan

Here's another one to note, and I've heard the wonderful Mr. Katz say that it might be his favorite: the quintet record on Bee Hive with Frank Wess and Jimmy Knepper. Now that's a dream line-up. The trio records on Reservoir are also marvellous.

John Herr

I'm looking at my copy of Further Definitions (Impulse A-12), which was autographed for me by Benny Carter & Dick Katz at a 4tet date they played at the old Lloyd's in Hartford in the early '90s. I took the original gatefold album to the club, thinking to get the great alto man's inscription, & discovered that the pianist on the recording date in '61 was the same one Benny had with him at the club that night, so I hit a double. During the performance, a couple fans at tables near the stage took snapshots w/ flash. Benny stopped in the middle of a number, complained that the flash was hard on his '84-year-old eyes & asked them to stop, but otherwise he seemed in great shape. At one point, the leader asked his pianist what was next on their set-list, & Katz replied, "Take a train." Carter & the crowd were mystified until the pianist explained he meant the Ellington orchestra theme song. Benny then asked the audience who wrote the tune & glowered at people who replied it was the Duke, holding out until someone identified Billy Strayhorn. Katz was gracious to me at intermission, writing "Best to John--thanks for listening" on the album jacket I presented. On a related note, reader Red Colm O'Sullivan above mentions a Katz 5tet date on Bee Hive w/ Frank Wess & Jimmy Knepper. I don't find this release in either the Mainstream or Goldmine jazz record guides. Can you or O'Sullivan supply title, index # & date?

Red Colm O'Sullivan

Dear Mr. Herr,
Glad to. The record is called "In High Profile". Recorded 1984 in New York (of course - where else) its catalouge number is BH 7016. It's never been reissued, so no CD version exists.
Like you, I too saw The King, the great Benny Carter, in the early '90s: 1990 at the Cork Festival in Ireland - and there's a simillar parallel to your experience in that the bassist on the concert was none other than the great Leroy Vinnegar, and this concert was their first meeting since they recorded Carter's great masterpiece albums "Jazz Giant" and "Swingin' The '20s" in 1957/'58 respectively. Definitely an historic moment to witness. (And Dizzy Gillespie was there that weekend too: to see them together - though not playing - was, well, in retrospect, an unbelievable privillage).

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  • Marc Myers writes regularly for The Wall Street Journal and is author of "Anatomy of 55 More Songs," "Anatomy of a Song," "Rock Concert: An Oral History" and "Why Jazz Happened." Founded in 2007, JazzWax has won three Jazz Journalists Association awards.
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