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Artist Profiles

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

By Published: February 20, 2009
"Pick-up session" would be the last phrase one could use to describe Victor's next album released in May, 1983 as To Chopin with Love (Hindsight) because the rehearsals to prepare it were numerous and arduous. With the marvelous John Patitucci on bass and Victor's son Trevor on drums, the release included Victor's insert notes explaining how and why the album came about:

"Frederick Francois Chopin's music has been described by music historian James Huneker as too often bejeweled, far too lugubrious, too tropical, having the exotic savor of the heated conservatory not the fresh scent of the flowers grown out in the open. He said it was desperately sentimental, some of the compositions not altogether to the taste of the present generation and anemic in feeling. He stated that more vigor, a quickening of the time pulse and a less languishing touch would rescue them from lush sentimentality. Huneker went on to note that Chopin loved the night and it's starry mysteries and that his nocturnes are true night pieces, some wearing an agitated, remorseful countenance while others are like whisperings at dusk.

"I only read these comments during the final stages of preparation for this album and was surprised to realize that I had similar reactions as a child upon hearing Chopin for the first time. I felt strangely melancholy yet deeply touched. In the course of my piano training I learned the B-flat Minor Waltz when I was ten. But then, I put Chopin (and the impressions I shared with Huneker) in the back of my mind and went on listening to Art Tatum, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington and other great American jazz musicians on short wave radio—English weather permitting reception. Much to my mother's dismay the best broadcasts were at 5 A.M. I was working five nights a week until midnight with Terry Thomas in a show at London's West End and I was twelve years old. The sounds of American music had me captivated and I wasn't quite ready to deal with the genius of an older great composer—one from Poland—whose music I have since grown to love. With my interpretations I hope to share Chopin with an audience that otherwise might not be exposed to his music and at the same time bring some surprises, sunshine, and humor to those ears already familiar with it.

"My first arrangement of a Chopin piece started before leaving England in 1955. I was playing the A-flat Major Waltz to improve my technique in my teens. At this time I was learning harmony from Charlie Parker, Al Haig and Dizzy Gillespie and found that Chopin's Waltz was really a chord progression like something Bird or Dizzy were basing their great be-bop lines on. Years later, in Los Angeles, when Lester Koenig of Contemporary Records asked me to make a trio album, I recorded the A-flat Major Waltz with Stan Levy and the late Scotty La Faro. I have included a new version of it on this album and it is dedicated to Scotty.

"I wish to express my appreciation to Trevor Feldman, 17, for his musical maturity and ability to play with the sensitivity beyond his age so necessary for a drummer playing this type of music. My thanks to John Patitucci for all the rehearsals and such marvelous playing in which he brings a uniqueness to this instrument so often neglected by the present generation. And to Chopin, who must have loved improvisation because he loved freedom-which was as precious and precarious in his time in his homeland of Poland as it is today-with all due respect, my thanks and my love."

As part of these same insert notes, Victor's jazz-pianist "buddy" John Williams (who has since gone on to become a world-famous composer of music for the movies and the conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra) wrote the following tribute to Victor:

"I met Victor Feldman just after he arrived in this country from England some twenty-five years ago. We were brought together by Henry Mancini, in whose orchestra we both played at that time.

"Victor made an instant hit with all of his fellow musicians because he was so multifaceted, highly musical and always an inspiration to play with. He exuded a love of music that was projected and passed on to anyone who came in contact with him.

His love of the classics has always been evident in his music, and in his new album treats us to reminiscences of childhood Chopin studies. As always, his work, which continues to grow and grow, delights us." John Williams, Boston, MA, June 9, 1983

During the recording sessions for the Chopin project, three of the trio's warm-up tracks were saved, and Hindsight Records released these as part of a compilation in 1998 under the title of Rio Nights (Hindsight). Included are two originals by Victor—"Don't Ask Oscar" (a blues with a truly amazing bass solo by Patitucci) and "You Gave Me the Runaround"—and, perhaps fittingly a quarter of a century later, a reflective and introspective seven-and-a-half minute version of "Basin Street Blues."

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