Merry Olde Soul: VICTOR FELDMAN
Victor Feldman (p - *, vib) Hank Jones (p) (on side !, #2 and 5; Side 2, #4 only) Sam Jones (b) Louis Hayes (drs)
Recorded in New York City; January 6 and 11, 1961
(Andy Simpson is the bassist on Side 1, #4 only – recorded December 16, 1960)
1. For Dancers Only (*) (4:40) (Sy Oliver)
2. Lisa (4:04) (Zito – Feldman)
3. Serenity (*) (4:35) (Victor Feldman)
4. You Make me Feel So Young (*) (5:19) (Myrow – Gordon)
5. Come Sunday (2:15) (Duke Ellington)
1. The Man I Love (6:25) (George & Ira Gershwin)
2. Bloke’s Blues (*) (5:29) (Victor Feldman)
3. I Want to Be Wanted (*) (3:39) (Cannon – Tesia – Spotti)
4. Mosey on Down (3:57) (Victor Feldman)
Once upon a time – and that should stir the memories of those who were children in the pre-TV era – there was a fictitious royal personage with a reputation for being a merry olde soul. His name was King Cole and he dug music – at any rate, he was always calling for his “fiddlers three.” Like he couldn’t play Note One, but he appreciated the sounds. But before this develops into a “hip” fairy tale, let me enlighten you:
This album is concerned with another merry olde soul. Actually, he isn’t so old (only 26 as of this recording); he is not always merry (so, who is?), but he most assuredly has a lot of soul. His name is VICTOR FELDMAN and he calls for only one fiddler, bassman Sam Jones, who certainly equals at least three men when it comes to strength and creativity. Victor also calls for drummer Louis Hayes and, occasionally, pianist Hank Jones. When they arrive, he doesn’t mess around with his pipe and bowl. Unlike Old King Cole, he is ready to play himself – on vibes and/or piano. In fact, the only thing he really ha sin common with the King is their native England.
Relatively few foreign jazzmen have come here and made any great impact. Most have not even dared risk a plunge into the icy waters of the American jazsstream, realizing that it is no mere Channel swim they face, but a trans-oceanic dog-paddle.
Feldman, however, seems to have had a flair for attaining the unusual almost from birth. He was quite the child prodigy: born (in London) in 1934, he was playing drums in public in 1941 and making records in 1942. He began studying piano at nine and vibes five years later. From 1941 to ’47 he had his own trio with two of his brothers, and in 1944 also appeared as guest star with Glenn Miller’s Army Air Force band. Subsequently he played with such large orchestras as Vice Lewis’ and Ted Heath’s, but eventually he found that England offered him less than complete fulfillment as a jazz artist. The natural move was to the USA.
Coming to this country late in 1955, Feldman toured as a drummer with Woody Herman until June ’57. Then he settled on the West Coast, bringing his vibes into play at The Lighthouse from October ’57 to August ’59. (Winner of five magazine awards as Britain’s top vibist, Victor added the Down Beat Critics Poll new-star award to his list in 1958.)
Experience is always as a good teacher for the naturally well-endowed and Vic, who has clearly listened to the right people, began demonstrating rapidly growing maturity and convincing personal statements, particularly on records. But he was not that highly regarded in U.S. jazz circles, perhaps largely because virtually all jazzmen functioning on the West Coast were suffering, in the late 1950s, from the general disrepute into which the music of their area had fallen.
In 1959 and early ’60, Victor was in Los Angeles, recording (with Shelly Manne among others) and playing behind TV private eyes like Peter Gunn. Then, in May of 1960, Cannonball Adderley called him up to San Francisco to round out a session featuring Wes Montgomery and Ray Brown. The immediate results of the call can be heard on CANNONBALL ADDELREY AND THE POLL-WINNERS (RLP 355; Stereo RLP 9355). The long-range results may turn out to have been earth-shaking. Feldman’s services had been requisitioned primarily for his vibes-playing (his piano work was little known beyond West Coast circles). When he sat down at the piano, no one laughed – but there were plenty of deeply affirmative smiles. And by the Fall of the year, Vic found himself a regular member of Cannonball’s quintet. Because he was with Adderley, could be heard on record with him (his debut with the group is on THE CANNONBALL ADDERLEY QUINTET AT THE LIGHT HOUSE – RLP 344; stereo 9344), and was now playing in the East and Midwest as well as on the West Coast, people suddenly began to take notice of his considerable talents. In turn, those talents, planted in a new garden, swiftly grew taller and stronger.
In this album, his first for Riverside as a leader, the spotlight is rally on Victor. His piano and vibes are both given wide exposure, and there is a substantial taste of his talents as a composer (of blues and ballads in particular). He proves more than equal to the task of filling a large amount of space with music that consistently sustains interest.
His choice of accompaniment is helpful, logical and wise. His well-established rapport with Adderley band teammates Jones and Hayes is readily apparent. When Hank Jones, the thorough pro, adds his piano to the group (on most of Vic’s vibes numbers), the tightly-knit, spirited warmth does not diminish even one calibration. (Bassist Andy Simpkins of “The Three Sounds” is a capable stand-in for Sam Jones on You Make Me Feel So Young.)
There are not many albums where all tracks deserve some comment. Here, each one has something to offer and bears mention. Various influences on Feldman’s style are in evidence, yet because of his own strong personality, he does not emerge as a mere eclectic. There is a great difference between intelligent absorption and imitation.
Victor opens on piano, with For Dancers Only, a happy, swinging interpretation of the Sy Oliver tune immortalized by the old Jimmie Lunceford band. His chording seems to show a Red Garland influence. Sam Jones has a strong solo and the integration of the trio is perfect: they literally dance. Lisa is a collaboration between Feldman and Torrie Zito; its minor changes cast a reflective mood but Victor’s touch on vibes here still swings. Serenity is a piece of unabashed romanticism. In his fine-touched work here, Victor (like many thinking pianists today) displays traces of Bill Evans. Vic’s versatility is pointed up in You Make Me Feel So Young. The statement of the theme by his piano is bright, breezy and sunflowery. Then he switches to vibes for more earthy commentary and, after Simpkins’ solo, he returns to improvise at the piano. (Hayes is fine with both sticks and brushes here.) Come Sunday, from Ellington’s “Black, Brown and Beige”, has effective underlining form S. Jones’ bow and H. Hones’ sensitive piano as Victor’s vibes spell out the melody. All concerned let the beauty inherent in Duke’s music speak for itself.
On The Man I Love (the only no-piano vibes number), Feldman starts out with a light touch similar to his work on Lisa. Then he intensifies into a more percussive attack that wails along Jacksonian lines, in a spirit that may put you in mind of Milt’s solo on Miles Davis’ famous version of the tune, but without copying Jackson. He builds and builds into highly-charged exchanges with Hayes before sliding into a lyrical tag. Bloke’s Blues is a rolling line that I find somewhat reminiscent of Hampton Hawes. There is an easy, natural swing and much rhythmic variety in Feldman’s single-line. His feeling for the blues is never forced. And Sam Jones’ solo here comes from down around his shoes, or (dare I say It?) the bottom of his sole.
I Want to be Wanted is an Italian-born melody of much beauty, recently converted into a top rock-and-roll hit and herewith rescued from that fate worse than death. It becomes a dreamy, scented cloud of musing, with Victor’s piano caressed rather than played. Finally, his Mosey on Down is a lazy, walking blues, with the vibes typically relaxed but communicative, and Hank Jones’ solo easy and flowing (and dig Hayes’ sound behind him).
Ever since the United States broke away from its mother country via the Revolutionary War, there have been a quantity of Anglophobes here. Their numbers have diminished through the years, but there has always been intermittent griping. One old saw that we’ve heard from England-baiters ever since the end of World War I is: “Why don’t they pay their war debt?”
Well, I’m ready to accept Victor Feldman as payment in full, plus interest.
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover designed by KEN DEARDOFF
Back-liner photo by WILLIAM CLAXTON
Recording engineer: RAY FOWLER
Recorded at Plaza Sound Studios,
Mastered by JACK MATTHEWS (Component Corp.) ona HYDROFEED lathe.
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street, New York 36, New York