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Victor Feldman - Part 4: The Artful Dodger, 1967-1977

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"I've heard some music from Venezuela that I have some tapes of at home. Everything's in 6/4. There's a harp player, a maracas player, a guitar-or, actually, it's a quarto-and a gultarone on there, playing the bass notes. And it's the first time I've heard a harp player really swing. I've heard people try to play the harp in jazz, but it's syncopation, rather than swing. This guy's fantastic. There's a few of 'em in Venezuela. I can't recall his name; it's on the tip of my tongue.

"The maracas player is also a marvelous musician. He makes fill-ins at the right time into the bridges, he can make trills on the maracas-all kinds of amazing things. And the sound these guys get with what they do! It really swings. I'm going to try and incorporate it into something I do on a record, and let it be sort of an influence. Te harmonic structure's so simple. There's 7th chords and major chords-but it's a matter of knowing how to improvise on that. Because when you've improvised on the chord structures that I commonly use-this is entirely different. So I'm working on it."



With Marty Paich (with whom Victor had studied arranging) contributing an arrangement of one of the tracks, there is some very beautiful music on The Venezuela Joropo, and it is regrettable that it has never made it to CD. On the album, Victor, who plays vibes and/or marimba on all tracks, uses two bands: [1] Emil Richards [vibes/marimba], Bill Perkins [flute/alto flute], Dorothy Remson [harp], Al Hendrickson [guitar], Max Bennett [bass], Larry Bunker [timbales], and Milt Holland [maracas and percussion]; [2] Bill Perkins [flute/alto flute], Dennis Budimir [acoustic and electric guitars], Monty Budwig [bass] and Colin Bailey [drums].

Dr. Robert Garfias, then of the Archives of Ethnic Music and Dance of the University of Washington, Seattle, wrote the liner notes for the album. They tell a fascinating story of the serendipitous way in which the album came about and, since the album has never been issued in CD form, they are re-printed here in their entirety:

"Perhaps a little more than a year ago I received a phone call from Victor Feldman. He had by chance happened to hear in Los Angeles one of my radio programs dealing with the traditional and folk music of Venezuela and was anxious to hear more of this music, and to know something about it. In this way a rather sporadic exchange of tapes, letters and phone calls was begun which at last resulted in the exciting music included on this LP.

"Before this, Victor Feldman was known to me only as the very sensitive pianist who had played for a time with Miles Davis. I was honestly surprised at the thought that a musician in the main stream of jazz today might be attracted by the music of Venezuela as a possible vehicle for his own expression.

"Certainly there have been incursions of Latin-American music into jazz and popular music in the United States. The several waves of Cuban music and most recently the Sambas, Maracatus and Baiaos of Bossa Nova have each had strong and lasting effects. But the music of Venezuela is somehow rather special. Being primarily an outgrowth of the old popular music of the Spanish Colonial period in Venezuela with little Afro-American influence, this music has not lent itself to the fervor or flashy intensity of the music of Cuba or Brazil.

"There is certainly a high degree of rhythmic intensity in the music of Venezuela but its usual rhythms occur In groups of six beats with the characteristic groupings and alterations of 3-3 with 2-2-2, which link this music with other remnants of Spanish Colonial music, the Mariachi of Southwestern Mexico, the harp music of Vera Cruz, the popular songs and dances of Yucatan, Colombia, Peru, and Chile.

"The typical Venezuelan ensemble of Spanish harp, cuatro (a small four-string guitar) and maracas, does not at first glance appear to lend itself to easy assimilation with jazz. It is a real tribute to the imagination and good taste of Victor Feldman that this first attempt should be musically such a success. He has given a beautiful sampling of his talents on this LP. There are a few examples of resetting of traditional Venezuelan songs. The others are a mixture of standards from the jazzman's repertoire and original compositions showing varying degrees of Venezuelan influence. The result is not only a fascinating document of the meeting of two traditions but the entire LP as a unit is an excellent example of 'musique a faire plaisir,' music to give pleasure.


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