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Victor Feldman - Part 1: The Arrival

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"More familiar to some listeners as a vibes player, Feldman made clear his piano credentials during the Blackhawk gig—his ensuing engagement with Cannonball Adderley is reported to be the result of the latter's favorable response to the Manne recordings...

"Feldman... never gained the jazz reputation he deserved, although he eventually established himself as one of the premier studio musicians in Southern California.... His piano playing was anything but the limited 'two-fingered' approach of many doubling vibraphonists and instead revealed a rich harmonic texture, a strong percussive element, and a good sense of space and melodic development."

Or as Bob Gordon shares (pp.206-207):

"There was a bit of apprehension about Feldman, who was in effect learning the book on the job, but he fitted in from the start. ... Cannonball Adderley was so impressed by Victor's playing on the [Blackhawk] sides he hired Feldman for his own group."


And lastly, Les Koenig's insert-note comments:

"Those who know Victor Feldman as a vibes player will be startled to discover that on the Blackhawk set he plays piano only. Whether he is comping for the horns, or soloing, his invention, drive, and basic jazz feeling put him in the front rank of today's jazz pianists."


I think the world of Russ Freeman, Shelly's regular pianist and, having lived for a number of years within a 10 minute drive to Shelly's Hollywood club, The Manne Hole, I had the opportunity to hear Shelly with a variety of groups.

Maybe it was because they were trying to keep warm during the damp and cold San Francisco nights, but rhythmically, none of Shelly's quintets ever sounded as "heated," and tenaciously tight (together) as the Blackhawk version. To my ears, the indisputable reason for this was the presence of Victor Feldman. He makes Shelly play differently: more forcefully, with more imagination and more daring. And these changes in Manne's playing affect everyone in the group causing them to take more chances, play in a more physical manner and to create what Richard Cook and Brian Morton have called "One of the finest and swingingest mainstream recordings ever made" (Penguin Guide, p. 957).

Victor could have that effect on people. He played drums from the piano stool and booted the band along.

Some years later when I asked Shelly about these dates, he said: "Well, I can't say it was like having another drummer on these sessions as we both know that he is another one and what a bad-ass drummer he can be. The feeling is just different with Vic; it's like looking into a musical mirror only your hearing it, not seeing it."

I also asked Victor about my observation, and he laughed and said" "You have to remember that I had only been playing piano on a regular basis for less than two years when I made the Blackhawk gig. I didn't have the facility yet so I would have to fall back on chorded rhythmic phrases, particularly at the end of a long solo. After a bit, I got the feeling that Shelly liked me to bring this into my solos so he could do some things behind it.

"But what I remember most about that gig was that everybody had a good time. We couldn't wait for it to start each night."


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