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Victor Feldman - Part 1: The Arrival


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Thus began another chapter in Victor's "love-hate relationship" with going on the road, for as he explained to Tynan:

"I didn't want to go on the road. Even as great a feeling as it was—to go with Woody's band—I just didn't want to go on the road, because I know how my physical and mental capabilities work on the road. It's a bit too rough for the kind of personality I am. But naturally I just couldn't turn it down. ... Woody was so nice and everything. He made me feel so relaxed."

Before leaving with Woody, Victor had made a prior arrangement to record an album for Keynote Records and set about making arrangements for the date. Bassist Bill Crow tells the tale of this ill-fated Feldman Keystone recording session in his book From Birdland to Broadway (New York: Oxford University Press), 1992, (pp. 119-120).

"One night [in 1955] a young man sat at the Hickory House bar listening and smiling as we played [the Marian McPartland Trio featuring Bill Crow on bass and Joe Morello on drums]. When our set was finished, he introduced himself as Victor Feldman. The talented English vibraphonist had just arrived in New York, and had come to meet Marian. He said he liked the way Joe and I played together.

"'I'm doing an album for Keynote,' Victor told us, 'and I'd like you guys to do it with me. I've already sort of promised it to Kenny Clarke, so I'll have him do the first date and Joe the second. I've got Hank Jones on piano.'

"Both dates went beautifully. Victor had written some attractive tunes, and he and Hank hit it off together right away. We couldn't have felt more comfortable if we'd been playing together for years. Victor was glad to have the recording finished before he left town to join Woody Herman's band.

"The next time I ran into Vic, he told a sad story. The producer at Keynote had decided to delay releasing the album, hoping Victor would become famous with Woody. But the next Keystone project ran over budget, and when he needed to raise some cash, the producer sold Victor's master tapes to Teddy Reig at Roost Records. Vic came back to New York, discovered what had happened, and called Reig to find out when he planned to release the album.

"'Just as soon as Keystone sends me the tape,' said Reig.

"Vic called Keystone to ask when this would take place, and was told the tape had already been sent. A search of both record companies offices failed to locate the tape, and as far as I know it was never found. It may still be lying in a storeroom somewhere, or it may have been destroyed.

"Since Keystone announced the album when we did the date, it was listed in Down Beat in their "Things to Come" column, and that information found its way into the Bruyninckx discography, but now that Vic and Kenny are both gone, that music exists as a lovely resonance in the memories of Joe, Hank and myself."

Kindly responding to an inquiry from me in March, 1997, Crow had this to say about Victor's approach to Jazz:

"I just liked everything I heard him play, and I liked the physical feeling of playing with him. He generated a good strong swing and communicated his enthusiasm for music in a very generous and enjoyable way. He chose good chord sequences, had a strong ear for the original melody, and knew that jazz is about having fun with music. I wish I'd had more chances to play with him."

While on the Herman band, in addition to the players that he had met in London, also on Woody's band were pianist Vince Guaraldi, tenor man Bob Hardaway and bassist Monty Budwig, all from California and all of whom would ultimately play a role in Victor's decision to stay on the West Coast after his playing days with Woody's band were over.

After nine months on the road, Woody disbanded and took a small group into Las Vegas and later into California. Victor recalled: "I liked the West Coast. Vince Guaraldi [who was from San Francisco] had been telling me about it, and he said I would like it better out there. He was right. I feel there's more of a compromise between the European way of life and the New York mad-house."

When Woody's small band broke up, Victor returned to England for a short vacation, but by then his mind was made up and, although he came back to the states to do a second nine-month stint with Woody, he ultimately left the band and at the "ripe old age" of 23, opted to come to Los Angeles and take up residence in 1957.

As Tynan observes: "Before locating a cheap flat in Hollywood, Feldman stayed at the homes of Monty Budwig and Bob Hardaway. Then he began exploring the jazz scene."

Victor went on to say: 'I met Leroy Vinnegar and played with him. And I met Carl Perkins. Carl showed me a lot. I learned a lot just from watching him and going around to his house. He didn't know the name of any chord, hardly; he didn't know much more than what a C minor or a C major was, or a major or minor chord. But the way he voiced his chords—I never heard anything like it in my life.'"


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