Folk Songs for Far Out Folk

This intriguing album was recorded in 1958 and features a host of players—many of them L.A. jazzmen—in a program of “folk” songs adapted and arranged by cellist Fred Katz. Katz, now 86, was a member of the Chico Hamilton Quintet at the time, and among the many musicians present are flutists Buddy Collette (also an original member of Hamilton’s group) and Paul Horn, his replacement. Katz believes that all musicians “have a common denominator, an eternal soul which unites all humankind,” and his idea was to make “a jazz album with a philosophical mission.” To this end he chose three African, two Hebrew and four American folk songs and used a different group on each set. The African tunes feature six brass players and five percussionists, while five woodwinds and a bass appear on the Hebrew songs. The American songs get a more traditional jazz treatment—vibes, guitar, piano, bass and drums—and although I have some quibbles with the selections (“Old Paint,” “Been in the Pen So Long”), the performances are all top-notch. The accompanying 36-page booklet brings Katz’s career up to date and includes the original liner notes and poems by Lawrence Lipton.