Frederick Katz

Date of death: Saturday, 7 September 2013

Number of Readers: 270

Known asFred Katz

SpecialtyAmerican jazz cellist and composer

Date of birth25 February 1919

Date of death 7 September 2013

Frederick Katz was an American cellist and composer. He was among the earliest jazz musicians to establish the cello as a viable improvising solo instrument. Katz has been described in CODA magazine as "the first real jazz cellist." Cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (b. 1962), who recorded a 2002 tribute album to the older musician (A Valentine For Fred Katz, Atavistic Records), praises Katz for introducing his instrument to jazz: "[Katz] managed to find a way to make it swing."
Born in New York City, Katz was classically trained. He studied under Pablo Casals and performed with several symphony orchestras. However, Katz is best known as a member of drummer Chico Hamilton's quintet, one of the most important West Coast jazz groups of the 1950s. Hamilton's group, including Katz, appeared in the film noir The Sweet Smell of Success (1957), starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, where Katz was described in passing as the Quintet's primary composer. Katz and Hamilton wrote a score for the film which was ultimately rejected in favor of one by Elmer Bernstein.
Katz also recorded several albums as a leader. Another high point in Katz's career was writing and conducting the arrangements for singer Carmen McRae's 1958 album Carmen For Cool Ones.
One of his most recognizable pieces of music was his score for the film A Bucket of Blood, directed by Roger Corman, as the music appeared in a total of seven Corman films, including The Wasp Woman and Creature from the Haunted Sea. According to Mark Thomas McGee, author of Roger Corman: The Best of the Cheap Acts, each time Katz was called upon to write music for Corman, Katz sold the same score as if it were new music.
Later in his career, Katz became a professor of ethnic music in the Anthropology Department at California State University, Fullerton and also at CSU Northridge, where he taught world music, anthropology and religion for over 30 years. He was a longtime Fullerton resident. One of his students was John Densmore, drummer of The Doors.
Katz died on September 7, 2013, in Santa Monica, California.


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