In December 1958, Victor Feldman—pianist, percussionist, and vibes player—began work on a project as a leader for Contemporary Records. He continued work on this project for nearly a year, ultimately recording two different quintets plus a ten-piece unit with contributions from bassists Al McKibbon and Scott LaFaro, soloists Walter Benton (tenor sax), Conte Candoli (trumpet), and Frank Rosolino (trombone), pre- Peanuts
pianist Vince Guaraldi, and the best percussion ensemble in the history of jazz: the triple threat of Willie Bobo, Armando Peraza and Mongo Santamaria—George Shearing’s percussion section.
“I tried to blend straightforward arrangements in the Latin and Afro-Cuban vein with the improvisations of the jazz soloists,” Feldman said of his first Latin jazz set, “and it seems to me that Conte Candoli, Walter Benton and Frank Rosolino play with the swinging pulsation that they normally would with regular piano, bass, and drums rhythm.” The resultant Latinsville! (Contemporary) album is now reissued by Fantasy, including five previously unreleased tracks.
As a soloist, Feldman whisks through his ending to “Flying Down to Rio,” then his mid-song feature in “Cuban Pete” swings very deeply in Bags’ (Milt Jackson’s) bag. He also dances brilliantly against the amazingly timed percussion melody of “Cuban Love Song.”
But the musicianship of the other musicians—the percussionists and horn/brass soloists in particular, but also the bass and piano players—play as large a part in the excellence of this music as Feldman does. For example, as you’d expect, the three horn players, particularly Candoli, shine in Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody’N You,” sound-surfing along the rhythm churned by the percussionists. “In A Little Spanish Town” rocks to its foundation from the percussionists, too.
Like this Gillespie tune, a previously unreleased alternate take of “Poinciana” is more jazz than Latin, very different from the version released on the original Latinsville! set. It’s straight-up quintet jazz quintet sans percussionists, driven both in support and as a soloist by bassist LaFaro, whose rhythm somehow sounds so essential and who solos as smooth and rich as the deepest, darkest chocolate.
Feldman would later work with Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis, who recorded Feldman’s composition as the title track for his Seven Steps to Heaven album in 1963.
Personnel: Victor Feldman (vibes, piano); Conte Candoli (trumpet); Frank Rosolino (trombone); Walter Benton (tenor saxophone); with Willie Bobo, Vince Guaraldi, Frank Guerrero, Scott LaFaro, Stan Levey, Nick Martinis, Al McKibbon, Armando Peraza, Tony Reyes, Ramon Rivera, Mongo Santamaria, and Andy Thomas.