The Hang of Music: Hatful of Napalm Plays Don Byron…
… Who, in turn, plays the music of Mickey Katz.
Yes, today is an expedient and brief intro. If you hadn’t guessed, this is “Don Byron Plays The Music of Mickey Katz”.
What you may not have guessed is that Don Byron is an old Jazz musician. He’s not actually that old, age wise, but all jazzers are old at heart. Old and drunk.
This is a little different to my standard fare. I try and keep it broad, but apart from one or two forays into folk or rap, it’s mainly rock, pop and metal on this site, along with any combinations of the three. That’s mainly a fluke of my choices of what I have to listen to than representative of my library, although I do have a lot of those genres. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t often talk about jazz. Despite being a huge fan.
Not many people like jazz. Or at least if they do, they don’t tell me about it. Please, if you are a fan of jazz, tell me so! I might be required to ask you a few preliminary security questions, such as your mother’s maiden name and whether or not you like Charlie Parker. (This is of course a trick question, as you must always refer to him as “Bird”.)
I get off topic. This week I am listening to a relatively new jazz album by presumably pretty progressive player who performs under the pen-name (well, real name but that was a streak of 6!) of Don Byron. Though he is an awesome player, though, and could get by on just that I’m sure, he does something different. His schtick is to take the works of others, or other genres, and “jazz” them up. Literally.
Which brings us to Mickey Katz, a comedic stage performer of funny songs about being jewish.
Now, sadly I don’t have many examples of this to show you guys. Partly because of takedowns (more on that tomorrow), but mostly because of just plain lack of interest on the inter-tubes. So the videos I have to show you what it is I’m talking about are limited in scope.
For example, I don’t get to play you “Dreidel Song”, which is a stand up routine wherein the bandleader keeps asking the band to make with the Dreidel, whilst the band keep arguing about which of the instruments is a dreidel (hint: none of them are), in between playing some great tunes. Nor do you get to hear Seder Dance, the precise next track on the album, which was obviously based on the track that inspired much of the soundtrack to the old Looney Tunes cartoons.
Anyway, as far as the things I can show you go, I can’t say they stood out much on the album. But that’s not to say anything bad about the album itself – more about the tastes of those on youtube.
In case you hadn’t guessed, Mickey Katz is drawing from the same sort of cabaret stageshow as Tom Lehrer was drawing on. I reckon, also, that Katz was hanging around the same sorts of place that Woody Allen would’ve started doing his stand-up in. So this is a fantastic tradition to steal from, with good music and great, tacky jokes.
And Don Byron pulls it off magnificently.He is spot on, both with his comedic timing and his reading of the mores of the original style. He captures it perfectly. Almost too perfectly. Almost to the point where I start asking myself if this is even jazz at all. He’s got the mimicking of the style down so well that it’s hard to see where, if at all, he’s made his own mark upon it.
That said, too skilled at his job is hardly a fitting criticism for this album, and I hardly want that to be my final word on the matter. I’ve really enjoyed listening to this album, and will probably do my best to listen to more of his work. But with that in mind, I may stick to his more straight examples if at all possible. If only as they make the whole “black guy donning a perfect yiddish accent and immaculately imitating a jewish stage performer from 50 years ago” far less confusing. At least when he’s playing the clarinet well I don’t have to use inception!