Victor Feldman - Part 2: From Cannonball to Russia
While in town for The Lighthouse appearance, Victor participated on James Clay's A Double Dose of Soul (Riverside/OJC, 1960). Recorded on October 11, 1960, it was part of the "Cannonball Adderley Presentation series" and as such was an example of what Keepnews meant when he talked about the effects of Cannonball's patronage on Victor's career.
Vic, who always had a knack for writing no small number of tunes that were rhythmically and harmonically interesting to play on, contributed "New Delhi" and "Pavanne" (a jazz waltz) to the Clay session while playing vibes on these and an up-tempo version of the standard "I Remember You." On this latter track in particular, you can hear the continued maturity of his vibes playing, especially on the three choruses of four-bar "trades" (back and forth solos between flute and vibes, each spanning four bars of the tune) with Clay's flute following Gene Harris' piano solo. His vibes are marked by a clean and accurate attack and a series of interesting harmonic substitutions upon which he builds his improvisations. There is very little of the Milt Jackson blues-inflected picks-ups or licks, nor anything that is reminiscent of the heavier, mallet attack of Lionel Hampton or Terry Gibbs in his style. Victor's vibes "sing out" with notes that are sustained into overtones, almost doing the impossible by giving the instrument a "vocal" quality.
Soon after their stint at The Lighthouse, Cannonball's quintet embarked on a tour of Europe as the group was becoming something of a phenomenon in world-wide Jazz coteries, in no small part due to Riverside's earlier albums featuring the group, most especially the In San Francisco album (Riverside/OJC, 1959). The band traveled as part of a Norman Granz-organized "Jazz at the Philharmonic" package, from which two albums were later produced on Granz' Pablo label.
Unfortunately, and perhaps due to contractual consideration, the music from the group's JATP 1960 European appearances was not released until 25 years after it was recorded.
The first album, entitled What is This Thing Called Soul (Pablo/OJC, 1991), features the group recorded in performance in Paris, France and Gothenburg and Stockholm, Sweden in November 1960. The program on this recording is largely the same as the one the band played on the Riverside Lighthouse album, but Victor's "The Chant" is back, and the group turns it into another "down- home-prayer-meeting." Not surprisingly, Victor offers another soul-stirrin'-solo on his funky 16-bar blues, which also includes an ingenious 8-bar bridge to form an ABA structure. His solo on this tune should erase any doubt about his ability to play the blues.
When the LP version was released in 1984, I distinctly remember that this was not a good period for the Feldman family as Marilyn had been diagnosed with the disease that would claim her life the following year.
I brought the album over to his house and we had a laugh over the tempo for the versions of Jimmy Heath's "Big P" and Cole Porter's "What is This Thing Called Love?"both reflective of a jazz truism, to wit: the more a group performs a tune, the faster it will play it. Victor chuckled and said: "You should have heard 'em by the end of the tour; I thought that Louis Hayes's right arm was going to fall to the floor."
Once again these tracks demonstrate what a complete pianist Victor was becoming while working with Adderley. As Victor commented: "It was the best thing that could have happened to me because Julian set such a high standard and I wanted to do well to support the faith that he had in bringing me on the band. At first, I didn't play vibes at alll and this helped me in bringing my piano chops up. But you know how it is. There is no substitute for working regularly with a band like Cannonball's and what it does for your playing."
By any measurable standard, Victor's piano playing has improved dramatically on these recordings. On both "Azul Serape" and "What is Thing Called Love," he rolls out a much more complete piano technique replete with rapid-fire, single-note phrasing, playing across bar lines and block chording that is interspersed throughout a solo instead of relied on to complete one for mere climactic, dramatic effect.
Although Victor was gone by then, Norman Granz's "Jazz at The Philharmonic" would issue more from Cannonball's 1960 European tour with the 1997 release of The Cannonball Adderley Quintet: Paris- 1960 (Pablo). It contains what I consider to be one of the best solos by Victor ever recorded with Cannon's group. Should there be any doubt, simply listen to Julian in the background during Victor's six choruses on Nat Adderley's "Work Song."
In his insert notes to the recording, Chris Sheridan, Cannonball's biographer and the manager of a website devoted to Cannonball. comments: