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Artist Profiles

Victor Feldman - Part 5: The Final Years, 1978-87

By Published: February 20, 2009
Also in 1978, Nat Adderley, another old friend, came calling with a request that Victor appear on his date for Galaxy Records, Orrin Keepnews new label, an album entitled A Little New York Midtown Music (Galaxy/Fantasy, 1978). Joining Nat and Victor on this excursion into neo hard bop are Johnny Griffin on tenor sax and a rhythm section of Ron Carter on bass and Roy McCurdy on drums.

Around the time of this recording, Victor had adopted "whip it up!" as a new favorite expression which he would snigger ("snuffle" might be a more apt description). I have no idea as to its source, but he would just blurt it out as one word—"whipitup"—and laugh at the sound of the phrase for no apparent reason at all.

Nat wrote four of the seven tunes on the album, and he asked Victor to bring up an original to the recording sessions which took place on September 17-18, 1978 at the Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA.

It should come as no surprise that the name Victor gave to the new chart written for this date was—wait for it—"Whipitup!" Like "Seven Steps to Heaven," "Agitation" and "The Artful Dodger"—tunes by Victor with melodies framed over cleverly structured rhythmic phrases—"Whipitup" is a wickedly fast drummer's delight that employs an insistent rhythmic vamp over which is played a simple melody with intriguing changes. Needless to say, given such a compositional "magic carpet, Johnny Griffin who, at one time was labeled "the world's fastest tenor player," just flies on it.

1978 was another very busy year in the recording studios for Victor. In addition to the projects with Woody Herman and Nat Adderley, he made albums with flutist Hubert Laws, tenor saxophonist John Klemmer and flute and reed player Joe Farrell (about which, more later). But the happiest occurrence for him that year was the call he received from Yupiteru Records, a subsidiary of a Japanese electronics firm by the same name whose owner was a huge Jazz fan. He invited Victor to cut six tracks for a jazz LP, the material and musicians to be of his own choosing.

Released as Together Again (Yupiteru, 1978), the LP reunited Victor, who plays piano exclusively, with Monty Budwig on bass and Shelly Manne on drums. Victor's playing on the date is electric and electrifying, no doubt in part due to the presence of Monty and Shelly. Moreover, the LP gives us a chance to hear a musician whose command of the piano now reflects a deep understanding of the instrument's full range of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic possibilities. His three-chorus improvisation on Bud Powell's "Budo" (Hallucinations) is composed of jazz inventions (particularly on the bridge) so perfectly original that Victor sounds almost as though he has devised a style that's sui generis.

Victor contributed two originals to the date—"Money's Blues" (he could write terrific blues lines) and "Down in Cancun" (played as a bossa samba)—on which he spins out an intriguing series of choruses reflecting a jazz pianist in his prime. He gets the piano rocking and rumbling on the blues track, which he closes out with some superb 12-bar exchanges with Shelly.

The strong sense of joy and good fun that emanates from Victor, Monty and Shelly making music on this recording extends through all of its tunes: the beautifully rendered ballad "Remind Me," "What Kind of Fool Am I" (which is offered as a jazz waltz), and a funky, medium-tempo version of the Motown pop hit "How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You."

Perhaps one of the reasons for the impressive growth in Victor's acoustic piano playing is that during the late 1970s and into the 1980s he was working fairly regularly at Pasquale's, a jazz club located in the Malibu Colony near his home. The club's appellation came from the Italian-given name of bassist 'Pat' Senatore, who owned and operated it along with his wife Barbara. Pat maintained a resident trio at the club that, in addition to Victor on piano, also featured from, time-to-time, Alan Broadbent, Frank Collett and Roger Kellaway along with drummers Peter Erskine, Roy McCurdy and Frankie Severino.

It was one thing for Victor to stop off at Donte's Jazz club in North Hollywood if he was doing studio work in Hollywood or at Warner Brothers in Burbank or at Universal Studios in Universal City (literally walking distance from Donte's on Lankershim Blvd). However, anyone who knows anything about Los Angeles traffic knows that a commute from coastal Malibu through the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains prior to traversing the Simi and San Fernando Valleys is, at best, horrendous. "Pasquale's," located just up the Pacific Coast Highway (CA Highway 1) from Victor's home, was a welcome alternative for him, and he was there often.

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