Victor Feldman - Part 4: The Artful Dodger, 1967-1977
In performance, recordings are generally full of excitement and Your Smile doesn't disappoint in this regard. Victor really turns it loose on piano on his originals - "Brazilian Fire," "Your Smile," "Minor Catastrophe" and "Crazy Chicken" which segues into a showcase for Johnny Guerin on "Seven Steps to Heaven."
As Feather concludes in his liner notes: "We are indebted to Gerry Macdonald and Choice Records for bringing this truly exceptional album to the public." In a similar vein, we are also indebted to Carl Jefferson, owner of Concord Records, for the 1977 recording and release of Victor Feldman: The Artful Dodger, with which we will close part four of this piece.
At the urging of guitarist Herb Ellis, Concord signed Victor for this date which also included Chuck Domanico on bass (Monty Budwig is on two tracks) and Colin Bailey on drums. Trumpeter Jack Sheldon also makes an appearance singing and playing on one track.
To my ears, the two most memorable tracks on this CD are structured in a way that is very similar to 'Seven Steps to Heaven,' in the sense that they explore ...' the possibilities inherent in combining melodic lines with percussion expressions."
These two Feldman originals are "Agitation" and "The Artful Dodger." Philip Elwood does an excellent job of detailing what makes up the complexities of both tunes in the following excerpts from his insert notes to the disc:
"'Agitation' begins like it is a 21st century bebop anthem, tricky and complex. Oriental chords and pentatonic scales [Victor had a penchant for these major and minor 5 note scales] roam through stop-time, syncopated strains and Bailey has a field day, ultimately playing a solo that sounds like a duet with himself."
"'Artful Dodger,' like 'Agitation,' is a Feldman tour de force special. Not just for him, of course, but for the trio. The stop-start rhythms, Feldman's unison lines (both hands), Domanico's gradual involvement with the melodic theme, Bailey's impeccably tight drumming and cymbal workand, finally, Feldman's remarkable chorus. New themes come and go, block chording gives way to lightning-like zigs-zags of right hand. Quite a number."
Quite a number, indeed; both "Agitation" and "The Artful Dodger" are an indication of two master drummers at work, except, in Victor's case, he's playing piano! They are also an indication of the kind of cohesiveness and intuitive anticipation that can be developed between musicians after 15 years of playing together. Very few pianists and drummers could bring off the intricacy inherent in these two tunes.
Philip Elwood's insert notes to this recording also provide an excellent way to conclude this segment on Victor's career up to the year 1977:
"Victor Feldman is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist. ... Feldman, in a word, is phenomenal; and has been all his life, since from his 1940 stage debut to this trio recording no one has been in more areas of pop music than has he.
"Listening to this recording the first impression is of Feldman's remarkable strength, his forcefulness. And that doesn't imply pounding or volume for its own sake. It does mean that Feldman has not only remarkable musical concepts but also the ability to play them with clarity and assertion."
...To be continued in Part 5: A Time of reunion with Woody Herman, Nat Adderley, & Shelly Manne and some new adventures with Art Pepper, Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams and a Generation Band.