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Victor Feldman - Part 3: Miles & Beyond

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"Dizzy never played more than three or four choruses; very condensed. A lot of older musicians, the old masters were the same way. ...[Charlie Parker would] say, 'Listen, if you can't say it in three or four choruses, you're not going to say it. Wait 'till the next tune... Lester Young said the same thing. Some cats would get to that fifth or sixth chorus, he'd say, 'Save some 'till later.'

One thing Dizzy told me when I first joined the group that really stuck with me: he said the sign of maturity in a musician was when you learned what not to play, what to leave out."

Perhaps, Victor learned this lesson well early in his career?

Although not released until over 30 years later, the 1965 appearance at Ronnie Scott's Club resulted in Victor Feldman: His Own Sweet Way— and this recording offers 11 excellent examples of Victor's skill with extended solos. And yet, even here, while the tunes may be longer in overall length and Victor may take longer solos, he shares the spotlight with the bassist and the drummer, keeping the group ethos paramount.

Ironically, in many ways this most comprehensive and expressive recording of Victor's playing available was recorded by an amateur on a portable tape recorder! As such it's a fortunate audio documentary of The Return of the Prodigal Son—Indeed, All Hail the Conquering Hero!

What was commonplace to those of us who had occasion to hear Victor's trio in various Los Angeles venues throughout the decade of the 1960s is captured on this recording made by combining performances that took place at Ronnie Scott's on the evenings of February 8 and 10, 1965, respectively. The eleven tracks come together to form an almost perfect 78-minute set. It's all here.

Victor's original "Azule Serape" is played as an up tempo cooker with a marvelous Latin lead-in involving four bar exchanges between Victor on piano and some expert drumming by Ronnie Stephenson. The alternating two- chord tag which takes the tune out builds into an excitement that is almost palpable before Victor intrudes to introduce Rick and Ronnie to the most appreciative audience that was fortuitously at Ronnie's to hear this glorious music first-hand.

Another Feldman original—"Too Blue"—was for a time was Victor's theme song. It offers an absolutely brilliant vibes solo based on eight superbly crafted blues-inflected choruses. And, following Rick Laird's bass solo, Victor comes back with four more choruses before taking the tune out! He must have been in the mood to play the blues as he also contributes another original blues—"Alley Blues"—to the set.

"A Fine Romance" makes an appearance as do magnificent treatments of "Autumn Leaves" and "Swinging on a Star," all unfurled by way of medium tempo, intricate arrangements that feature extensive solos by Victor who at times, alternates between piano and vibes during the same tune, adding color and depth to these performances. Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way" is also on the bill and the trio joyously plays the heck out of it. There's even a 'slow-roasted' rendition of "Basin Street Blues" on hand to close the set [although Victor can't resist double-timing it in places].

The elaborate and extended solos by Victor on this album are the complete antithesis of the short-track Vee Jay album that chronologically preceded it and are an example of a musician at the top of his form and who has more than adequately found his way through longer more elaborate musical formats.

To close this segment on the career of Victor Feldman with excerpts from Les Tomkins' liner notes to Victor Feldman: His Own Sweet Way:

"Although he was only to be seen at Ronnie Scott's club for one week—his shortest showing yet—Victor Feldman made a greater impression than ever. There was a general acknowledgement that Victor is a great in his own right. New factors of the Feldman performance: the predominance of piano, the exclusive use of arrangements. Appreciation was also voiced for the overall bass/ drums integration of Rick Laird and Ronnie Stephenson.

Vic Ash enthused: "To me it's like a breath of fresh air, after some things I've heard recently-some good, some not so good. After this trip I'm even more convinced that Victor is one of the finest of all jazz musicians. At one time it was mostly his vibes that I listened to, but now I think his piano matches it easily. He's the complete musician—jazz wise and technically. And Rick and Ronnie have been giving him beautiful support."


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