Jews on Vinyl Revue at Skirball Cultural Center to feature Johnny Mathis

Hedva Amrani.
Hedva Amrani.
Courtesy of the Skirball Cultural Center
Hedva Amrani.
Sol Zim.
Courtesy of the Skirball Cultural Center
Hedva Amrani.
Fred Katz
Courtesy of the Skirball Cultural Center

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This Thursday, the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles will welcome some very special guests for a concert called the Jews on Vinyl Revue. The concert is produced by the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation and is part of an ongoing exhibit of the same name at the Skirball.

Earlier this year, KPCC's Alex Cohen and Josh Kun of the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation told you about the Jews on Vinyl exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

The concert will feature '70s Israeli singing sensation Hedva Amrani, jazz legend Fred Katz, cantorial superstar Sol Zim with a special appearance by Johnny Mathis. They'll be joined by the Jews on Vinyl All-Star Band led by guitarist David Green and featuring DJ Bonebrake of legendary L.A. band X.

Hedva Amrani is a veteran Israeli singer who began her career in the late '60s as part of the world-famous duo ”Hedva and David.” Together they made it to the top of the Israeli charts, recorded numerous albums, and traveled throughout the world representing Israel.

In 1970, the duo won the 1st Yamaha Song Festival in Tokyo, Japan, with the song “I Dream of Naomi” which sold over a million copies in Japanese, and from then on Japan became a second home for Hedva and David.

In the late '70s, Hedva launched her solo career and had many hits including “In One Heart” (Salam Aleikum) which established Hedva as one of Israel’s most beloved singers, “The Two of Us” (Shneinu Yachdav), and many more. Hedva divides her time between Israel and the United States and is a frequent guest artist on Israel television, radio and stage. In 2007 she released her first solo CD in almost ten years.

Fred Katz introduced the classical cello to the repertoire of American jazz. Born in 1919 in Brooklyn, where he was surrounded by leftist politics, mystical teachings, and musical experimentation, Katz went on to be a student of Pablo Casals and to play behind Vic Damone, Lena Horne and Carmen McRae.

In the '50s, he was a member of the legendary Chico Hamilton Quintet, the celebrated interracial group that would become the premier experimental unit on the west coast. Katz has also scored Roger Corman films such as "The Little Shop of Horrors" and "A Bucket of Blood," recorded with Ken Nordine, Harpo Marx and Sydney Poitier, and released a string of influential solo jazz cello albums.

In the late 1950s he served as A&R man for Decca Records (he created the label’s beloved Jazz Moods series) and in 1958 released Folk Songs For Far Out Folk, jazz orchestrations of Hebrew, African, and American folk songs.

Throughout the 1970s and '80s, he was a professor of Anthropology at Cal State Fullerton, where he taught classes in magic, jazz, Kabbalah, and ethnomusicology. At 91, Katz is still composing.

Sol Zim is the original Star of David. A prolific recording artist, descendant of five generations of cantors, he has transformed the field with his artistry, interpretive skills, creativity, and genre-bending.

Sol has left an indelible mark on the Jewish musical landscape, supplying it with an evolving musical sound and some of its most spectacular album covers. Zim has had a chameleonic career, performing within duos, with his family, and as a solo artist.

Cantorship has been his true love. He revolutionized the form with his inventiveness and promotion of antiphonal singing. But performing has been his ultimate high. Watching KISS play Madison Square Garden changed his life and he began to mix the traditional with the pop field, birthing David Superstar recorded live at the Hollis Hills Jewish Center — a scintillating avant-garde cantorial rock and roll package.

Johnny Mathis is a legend of American popular music and one of the world's most distinguished, and cherished, voices of popular song. He has recorded over 130 albums and sold more than 350 million records.
In 1958, he recorded “Kol Nidre” — the Aramaic prayer traditionally intoned at the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Day — as a 7” single, right at the moment he was becoming famous for his romance-inducing, back-seat drive-in make-out music. The song was released on "Good Night, Dear Lord," a long player which featured such devotional classics as “The Rosary” and not one, but two, versions of “Ave Maria.”

Mathis will take the stage at the Jews on Vinyl Revue concert to accept an award from the Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation. Mathis will retell the lost story of how he came to record fifty years ago his belting version of “Kol Nidre."

Listen to Josh Kun describe the event in conversation with KPCC's Alex Cohen.