For a jazz cellist, there aren't so many possible heroes on the instrument. Fortunately, there's Fred Katz.
Not only as a cellist- but as composer and arranger too, Katz is worthy of accolades and acolytes. He studied with old master Pablo Casals and played piano behind various big-name crooners at the start of the '50s, but soon Katz made his decisive move into the Chico Hamilton Quintet, where he had a chance to work with multiple reed visionary Eric Dolphy and guitarist Jim Hall. Katz portrayed himself with startling accuracy in the Burt Lancaster movie THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, and made a couple of ambitious, adventurous records for Pacific Jazz towards the end of the '50s. With Ken Nordine, Katz created the two WORD JAZZ LPs now so cherished as weirdo-kitsch collectors items.
Fellow cellist and fellow Frederick - Chicagoan (also, like Katz, a former New Yorker) Fred Lonberg-Holm set out a few years ago to pay homage to the gloriously cool Mr. Katz. Recruiting ultra-sensitive drummer Glenn Kotche and adaptable bassist Jason Roebke, Lonberg-Holm arranged a varied set of Katz's music, as well as some pieces familiar from his records ("My Funny Valentine," "Autumn Leaves"), for a concert at the Empty Bottle Festival of Jazz & Improvised Music in 2000, giving radiant thanks to his predecessor, who is still alive and writing music at age 83.
A box of sweets, a heart-shaped card, flowers, horsehair and a canister of rosin. Here, then, is cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm's valentine - a funny valentine - for the great Fred Katz.