Dick Katz, a pianist, record producer, educator and writer whose knowledge of jazz from the stride-piano era to 1960s modernism made him a valuable presence on New Yorks jazz scene for six decades, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 85.
The cause was lung cancer, said his son Jamie.
Mr. Katzs piano idols were soloist royalty: Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, Fats Waller. But he was a more reserved musician, finding his place somewhere between accompanist, arranger and subtle improviser.
One of his breakthrough moments was his role as pianist on the saxophonist and composer Benny Carters 1961 album Further Definitions, meshing with a first-class multigenerational crew including swing-era veterans and younger musicians. Another was his 1965 collaboration with the singer Helen Merrill, The Feeling Is Mutual, an arty, cooled-out album of jazz standards of which he was co-leader, arranger and producer.
Richard Aaron Katz, born in Baltimore on March 13, 1924, was already playing in local clubs there as a teenager before he left for the University of North Carolina to study music. He joined the Navy in 1942 and fought in the battle of Saipan; in 1946 he became a professional musician in New York.