Victor Feldman - Part 3: Miles & Beyond
"Miles Davis brought out my creativity. Before working with him, I'd heard a lot of stories about him. But I never believe things people tell me about anybody like that. ...Everyone has a quality within themselves that's beautiful: who are we to set up standards about how a person should act? I enjoyed playing with Miles and I enjoyed meeting him. He certainly seems to be very straightforward; he says what he wants to say... That's the way he playsin a very honest way. Whenever you play with him, you get a feeling of starting afresh, and wiping the cobwebs away. He creates an atmosphere round him that helps you steer clear of clichés.
"In fact he gets on my nerves sometimes, in a way, because he gets hold of a piece and wants to change it around so completely that I think he takes it too far. Then, on the other hand, maybe it's a good thing to do thatto really tread new ground."
Although I have emphasized Victor's relationship with Miles to underscore his status as a major Jazz player and to reflect on what might have been, the fact was that Victor was increasingly busy in his own right on the West Coast Jazz scene before and after his time with Miles.
He had made albums as a sideman with Frank Rosolino (Turn Me Loose!, Reprise/Collectibles), Barney Kessel (Music from "Breakfast at Tiffany's, Reprise/Collectibles), Curtis Amy (Way Down, released as part of a 3-CD Mosaic Select set), and Joe Maini (Joe Maini Memorial, Fresh Sound)all of which were released in late 1962 prior to his April 1963 dates with Miles.
Through a family connection, I had a brief involvement with Reprise Records during its early years. As a result, I was able to attend the November, 1961 Turn Me Loose! recording session that marked Frank Rosolino's debut as a vocalist. I remember Frank commenting that he was so pleased that Victor could make the date which also included Chuck Berghofer on bass and Irv Cotler on drums. Frank said of Victor:
"I worked with the man for about two years and he swung his a** off every night at the Lighthouse. His comping keeps the time so alive. And his solos are always so driving and full of fresh ideas. Vic is one of the best kept secrets in LA."
Curtis was so impressed with Victor's work with Cannonball that he hired him for his Pacific Jazz Way Down (Pacific Jazz, 1962) session and featured his name on the album cover. And, in May, 1963, the month after recording with Miles he was in the Columbia Hollywood studios recording with Paul Horn (Jazz Impressions of Cleopatra (Columbia, 1963) before commencing two albums with his own trio of Monty Budwig [bass] and Colin Bailey [drums], both released on Vee Jay in 1964: Love Me With All Your Heart and It's a Wonderful World.
Bassist Chuck Israel, who played on the Paul Horn Cleopatra date with Victor along with Colin Bailey on drums to form the rhythm section, wrote the following to me in a 1997 E-mail:
"Aside from this early association with Victor in LA, when we moved to San Francisco in 1981 (Margot was singing with the SF Opera) Victor had a number of performances for which he hired me... He was a fine player and a good composer...a gifted musician who could not do anything un-musical."
Victor talked at length about his trio and his two Vee Jay recordings in an earlier interview that he gave to Les Tomkins that coincided with a February 1965 appearance at Ronnie Scott's Club. He also had some deservedly complimentary things to say about his new "mates" in this same interview:
"I have a trio in the States consisting of Monty Budwig on bass and Colin Bailey on drums. Colin is from Swindon, Englanda terrific drummer. What I've done is brought over music that we play. But we've played it for months and months. I'd never worked with Rick [Laird, bass] and Ronnie [Stephenson, drums] before and I think it's marvelous the way they picked it up so quickly. Unbelievable, in a way. But naturally, Colin, Monty and I feel that the three of us have got kind of spoilt, because we've got such a good thing going. Which is inevitable, after the right combination of people have played together for a long time. We really seem to have empathy for each other's playing...