July 7, 1993
By David Duckman [David Royko]
Plays The Music Of Mickey Katz (Elektra/Nonesuch)
My mother-in-law, an expert on all things Jewish, considers most contemporary Klezmer ensembles as just so much dreck, and even she was knocked out by this disc. Clarinetist Don Byron is usually found playing what was once called avant garde jazz, but has also been a zealous proselytizer for the late jewish comic/musician/genius Mickey Katz, garnering praise from no less than Joel Grey, Katz's son, for his klezmer playing. If the cover photo of Byron, a dreadlocked African-American, makes you doubt the recording's authenticity of spirit, "Frailach Jamboree" will instantly certify the universality of this music. Byron has accurately, though not obsessively, recreated Katz's original arrangements, and the humor of tunes like "C'est Si Bon," with its french-accented Yiddish, comes off even without a thorough knowledge of the languages involved (although translations/explanations of each song should have been included). His musicians are excellent, creating performances that are as stunning as they are funny.