Victor Feldman - Part 2: From Cannonball to Russia

Steven Cerra BY

Sign in to view read count
Victor's vibes 'sing out' with notes that are sustained into overtones, almost doing the impossible by giving the instrument a 'vocal' quality.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

As to the title of this piece, I thought about calling it "Part 2: The Cannonball Years," but since Victor was with Cannonball for only less than a full year, I thought that might be overstating things a bit. I lived in San Francisco for most of the decade of the 1990s. And it was there on March 4, 1999, a typical, foggy San Francisco late afternoon, that I met with record producer Orrin Keepnews, a hero of mine from my earliest days as a jazz fan.

We got together in one of the city's many restaurants serving Asian food, this one with the innocuous name of "The Beach House," located next to the now defunct Coronet Theater near the corner of Geary and Arguello. Orrin had very kindly consented to be interviewed about Victor Feldman, particularly about Victor's time with Cannonball Adderley's quintet and Victor's association with Riverside Records, which Orrin co-owned with Bill Grauer.

Although the sessions have since become legendary, at the time The Blackhawk gig [with which we closed Part 1] with Shelly Manne's group amounted to a couple of weeks of work for Victor plus some out-of-town expenses. Upon returning to Los Angeles in late September, 1959, Victor had to find work for his trio with Bob Whitlock on bass and John Clauder on drums, who was soon replaced by Colin Bailey.

There was also the matter of what to do about an attractive woman named "Marilyn" (the former Marilyn McGrath, whom he had met during a local gig. Nine months after they met, they married in 1960. As Victor recounted to John Tynan in his June 6, 1963 Downbeat article:"I decided all of a sudden that I'd like to take her to England. I'd saved some money and we were away for three months. While we were there, I played the Blue Note in Paris and appeared with Kenny Clarke on a Dinah Shore TV special.

"Cannonball had called me about a month before I went back to England. He called me to make a record with Ray Brown, Wes Montgomery, Louis Hayes and himself. (Cannonball Adderley and the Poll Winners, Riverside/Landmark, 1960). While we were in England, I got a cable from him with a definite offer as a pianist-vibraphonist with his group."

Picking up my 1999 interview with Keepnews at the point of the Adderley Poll Winners album, Orrin said that he and Cannonball had decided to use guitarist Wes Montgomery and bassist Ray Brown on the album, which led them to think further about "unusual instrumentation." Although there was some talk about Les McCann, the feeling was that he was primarily a blues player but, more importantly, Cannonball just didn't want to use a pianist. The rest of the conversation went as described by Keepnews in the album's liner notes:"With all the established musicians (including the regular Adderley drummer, Louis Hayes) living fully up to expectations, the surprise element was provided by the then-unknown Victor Feldman.

"In view of the unconventional feeling of guitar and bass, Cannon had wanted something less routine than just a pianist. West Coast friends recommended a highly skilled young L.A. studio vibraphonist, recently arrived from England; figuring that we only need him for coloration, we took a chance and invited him up [to San Francisco where the album was being recorded by Wally Heider at Fugazi Hall near North Beach.

"At rehearsal, Victor sat down at the piano to demonstrate a couple of his compositions. I can still clearly visualize all of us standing there, open-mouthed and thunderstruck, as we listened to the totally unexpected swinging and funky playing of this very white young Britisher.

"Finally one of us, struck by an apparent facial resemblance, expressed our mutual amazement. 'How can the same man,' I asked, 'look like Leonard Feather and sound like Wynton Kelly?'

"As you will note, two of Feldman's tunes [The Chant and Azul Serape] were inserted into the repertoire; and within just a couple of months he had been hired as the Adderley Quintet's regular pianist."

As was the case at this time, all vibraharpists were quite unfairly cast in the shadow of Milt Jackson, yet Victor's vibes solo on Frank Loesser's "Never Will I Marry" on The Poll Winners is four choruses of the most original vibes playing you're ever likely to hear. Not only that, it doesn't contain one Milt Jackson "lick" or a single repeated phrase.

In the flood of admiration for Milt Jackson's playing as a vibraphonist—most of it deserving but some of it simply fawning—by the New York-based Jazz writers, Victor's development of his own, singular approach to playing the instrument was never given the attention it deserved. Victor was always very respectful of Milt and his contributions, but what he plays during the "Never Will I Marry" improvisations are inventions that go well beyond Jackson's sometimes repetitive, blues-inflected phrasing.

Mike Hennessey,in his insert notes to Dynavibes: The Jeff Hamilton Trio featuring Frits Landesbergen (Mons, 1997), comments that Landesbergen, the excellent Dutch drummer who plays vibes on this album, " ... also has a high regard for the late Victor Feldman. He says: 'Victor was a great, all-round musician who played piano, vibes and drums and who was a fine composer and arranger. I think his vibraphone playing was more advanced harmonically than most other players."

Victor had one of the most astute harmonic minds in jazz, a gift that would be exemplified in his ability to re-harmonize something as pedestrian as "Basin Street Blues," as well as to infuse interesting harmonies with advanced rhythmic structures to create tunes like "Joshua" and "Seven Steps to Heaven."

Returning to the Keepnews interview, Orrin implied that Victor's hiring by Cannonball validated him on the New York jazz scene. For example, it made possible Victor's own release on Riverside of Merry Olde Soul (1960) as well as his appearance on other Riverside albums such as those by tenor-flutist James Clay and bassist Sam Jones, who even named one of his Riverside dates after Victor's tune—"The Chant." On this album, Victor shared principal arranging responsibility with Jimmy Heath.

The driving force behind much of this activity was Cannonball, who had become a kind of ex officio artists & repertoire man for Orrin at Riverside. One of the reasons for Cannonball's status in this regard, according to Orrin, was that, unlike many musicians, "Cannonball was extremely articulate and therefore able to express his ideas very clearly. Cannonball's approval of Victor's playing and his work gained for him instant acceptance with me and some of the giants of the music, including Miles Davis, who had tremendous respect for Cannon."

Orrin further reflected that had Victor remained in the New York area, the natural course of events would have been such that he would have made a major mark on the Jazz scene. As it was, Miles Davis looked him up when he went to "the Coast" in 1963, and the result was the Seven Steps to Heaven album.

However, the rigors of traveling which impacted adversely on his recent marriage to Marilyn and the monetary lure of the Hollywood studios proved too great and he returned to Los Angeles in 1961.

Since we all live the consequences of our choices, instead of dwelling on "what-might-have-been," let's spend time on the recordings that Victor did make while with Cannonball, in concert with others and those he made as a leader, as this is a wonderfully productive period in his career.

In their 1963 interview, Victor shared with John Tynan: "Actually, my first gig with Adderley's band was the 1960 Monterey Jazz Festival [held in September of every year]. I remember, we played 'Dis Here' [a Bobby Timmons tune and Cannonball's earliest "hit recording"] and I got lost on it."

Ironically, when Victor began his recorded tenure with Cannonball the following month, it landed him right back at his old stomping grounds—The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach, California. As Orrin Keepnews commented in his insert notes to The Cannonball Adderley Quintet at The Lighthouse (Riverside /Landmark, 1960):

"This was Victor's first recording with Cannonball's quintet ...and the zest he adds to an already highly-charged unit is certainly among the highlights here."

This is not hyperbole on Keepnews' part as Victor's presence is felt throughout this album be it in the form of the I-dare-you-not-to-tap-your-foot during his five solo choruses on Jimmy Heath's "Big P," a blues tribute to bassist big brother, Percy, or be it in the form of his intriguing original composition "Exodus" with its modal vamp and its circle-of-fifths bridge and which also has Julian saying "Yeah, Vic" to his brilliantly constructed solo on the tune, or be it in the form of his masterful comping on "What is This Thing Called Love?," the evergreen that closes out the album (a classic example of Victor "drumming" from the piano chair).

And on this album, it's easy to discern that one year and one month after the Blackhawk sessions recorded with Shelly Manne's quintet, Victor's piano chops had come a long way as the improvised lines just flow from his right hand. As is exemplified on "Azul Serape," the other original by Victor that Cannonball included in this album, this time the block chord rhythmic riffs are interspersed throughout the piano solo and the "tag" that ends the tune instead of being relied on to complete the solo. Victor has more stamina and control while at the keyboard, and there's little doubt that both of these skills would continue to grow as a result of his time with Cannon.

While in town for The Lighthouse appearance, Victor participated on James Clay's A Double Dose of Soul (Riverside/OJC, 1960). Recorded on October 11, 1960, it was part of the "Cannonball Adderley Presentation series" and as such was an example of what Keepnews meant when he talked about the effects of Cannonball's patronage on Victor's career.

Vic, who always had a knack for writing no small number of tunes that were rhythmically and harmonically interesting to play on, contributed "New Delhi" and "Pavanne" (a jazz waltz) to the Clay session while playing vibes on these and an up-tempo version of the standard "I Remember You." On this latter track in particular, you can hear the continued maturity of his vibes playing, especially on the three choruses of four-bar "trades" (back and forth solos between flute and vibes, each spanning four bars of the tune) with Clay's flute following Gene Harris' piano solo. His vibes are marked by a clean and accurate attack and a series of interesting harmonic substitutions upon which he builds his improvisations. There is very little of the Milt Jackson blues-inflected picks-ups or licks, nor anything that is reminiscent of the heavier, mallet attack of Lionel Hampton or Terry Gibbs in his style. Victor's vibes "sing out" with notes that are sustained into overtones, almost doing the impossible by giving the instrument a "vocal" quality.

Soon after their stint at The Lighthouse, Cannonball's quintet embarked on a tour of Europe as the group was becoming something of a phenomenon in world-wide Jazz coteries, in no small part due to Riverside's earlier albums featuring the group, most especially the In San Francisco album (Riverside/OJC, 1959). The band traveled as part of a Norman Granz-organized "Jazz at the Philharmonic" package, from which two albums were later produced on Granz' Pablo label.

Unfortunately, and perhaps due to contractual consideration, the music from the group's JATP 1960 European appearances was not released until 25 years after it was recorded.

The first album, entitled What is This Thing Called Soul (Pablo/OJC, 1991), features the group recorded in performance in Paris, France and Gothenburg and Stockholm, Sweden in November 1960. The program on this recording is largely the same as the one the band played on the Riverside Lighthouse album, but Victor's "The Chant" is back, and the group turns it into another "down-home-prayer-meeting." Not surprisingly, Victor offers another soul-stirrin'-solo on his funky 16-bar blues, which also includes an ingenious 8-bar bridge to form an ABA structure. His solo on this tune should erase any doubt about his ability to play the blues.

When the LP version was released in 1984, I distinctly remember that this was not a good period for the Feldman family as Marilyn had been diagnosed with the disease that would claim her life the following year.

I brought the album over to his house and we had a laugh over the tempo for the versions of Jimmy Heath's "Big P" and Cole Porter's "What is This Thing Called Love?"—both reflective of a jazz truism, to wit: the more a group performs a tune, the faster it will play it. Victor chuckled and said: "You should have heard 'em by the end of the tour; I thought that Louis Hayes's right arm was going to fall to the floor."

Once again these tracks demonstrate what a complete pianist Victor was becoming while working with Adderley. As Victor commented: "It was the best thing that could have happened to me because Julian set such a high standard and I wanted to do well to support the faith that he had in bringing me on the band. At first, I didn't play vibes at alll and this helped me in bringing my piano chops up. But you know how it is. There is no substitute for working regularly with a band like Cannonball's and what it does for your playing."

By any measurable standard, Victor's piano playing has improved dramatically on these recordings. On both "Azul Serape" and "What is Thing Called Love," he rolls out a much more complete piano technique replete with rapid-fire, single-note phrasing, playing across bar lines and block chording that is interspersed throughout a solo instead of relied on to complete one for mere climactic, dramatic effect.

Although Victor was gone by then, Norman Granz's "Jazz at The Philharmonic" would issue more from Cannonball's 1960 European tour with the 1997 release of The Cannonball Adderley Quintet: Paris-1960 (Pablo). It contains what I consider to be one of the best solos by Victor ever recorded with Cannon's group. Should there be any doubt, simply listen to Julian in the background during Victor's six choruses on Nat Adderley's "Work Song."

In his insert notes to the recording, Chris Sheridan, Cannonball's biographer and the manager of a website devoted to Cannonball. comments:"In the rhythm section, British pianist/vibraphonist Victor Feldman had joined a few months earlier, bringing an articulate single-noted and block-chording style that was closer to Wynton Kelly than his predecessor, Bobby Timmons. The Adderleys were particularly taken with his compositions, which, like the hot gospelling, 'The Chant,' fattened the band repertoire.... Remarking on his pianist's Englishness, Mr. Adderley once observed: 'He isn't supposed to have this kind of soul because it's the other kind of soul.'"

While with Cannonball and living in New York, Victor had the opportunity to record his own album on Riverside, the aforementioned Merry Olde Soul (Riverside/OJC), which was recorded in December, 1960 and January, 1961.

As Orrin Keepnews recalled: "The was no question of using Sam Jones and Louis Hayes on it as by now they had formed quite a rhythm section; I think I was the one who suggested Hank Jones on piano for one session to free up Vic to play vibes on three tracks."

Ira Gitler, who was selected to provide the liner notes, had this to say about the recording:"There are not many albums where all the tracks deserve some comment. Here, each one has something to offer and bears mention. Various influences on Feldman's style are in evidence, yet because of his own strong personality, he does not emerge as a mere eclectic. There is a great difference between intelligent absorption and imitation."

Although all of the nine tracks on the album show off various aspects of Victor's developing style and technique with little need of explanation, Gitler had the following to say about four of the tunes (I would only add that Victor's vibes solo on Gershwin's "The Man I Love" is one for the ages—an absolute marvel of building tension and release brought about by a musician with an incredible sense of syncopated rhythm, a well-developed feeling for melody and an ever-deepening knowledge of harmony):"Victor opens on piano with 'For Dancers Only,' a happy, swinging interpretation of the Sy Oliver tune immortalized by the old Jimmie Lunceford band. His chording seems to show a Red Garland influence. Sam Jones has a strong solo and the integration of the trio is perfect: they literally dance. 'Lisa' is a collaboration between Feldman and Torrie Zito; its minor changes cast a reflective light, but Victor's touch here on vibes still swings. ...

"On 'The Man I Love' (the only no-piano vibes number), Feldman starts out with a light touch similar to his work on 'Lisa.' Then he intensifies into a more percussive attack that wails along Jacksonian lines, in a spirit that may put you in mind of Milt's solo on Miles Davis' famous version of the tune, but without copying Jackson. He builds and builds into highly-charged exchanges with Hayes before sliding into a lyrical tag.

"'Bloke's Blues' is a rolling line that I find somewhat reminiscent of Hampton Hawes. There is an easy natural swing and much rhythmic variety in Feldman's single line. His feeling is never forced."

"In this album, his first for Riverside as a leader, the spotlight is really on Victor. His piano and vibes are both given wide exposure, and there is a substantial taste of his talents as a composer (of blues and ballads in particular). He proves more than equal to the task of filing a large amount of space with music that consistently sustains interest."

Later in January 1961, Feldman participated in bassist Sam Jones' big band session based around the Cannonball Adderley Quintet of the time. The album took its name from Victor's oft-played original The Chant(Riverside/OJC), and to add honor upon distinction, Victor was asked by Jones, the album's principal, to prepare some of the arrangements along with Jimmy Heath. Victor shares piano duties on the album with Wynton Kelly and takes the solos on Benny Golson's "Blues on Down" and Rudy Stephenson's "Off-Color."

While Feldman was living in New York and working in Cannonball's group, a growing demand for his presence on albums such as this one was developing, but a few months into 1961 found Victor once again struggling with life on the road. And to complicate matters, Marilyn was pregnant. After nine months with Cannonball, as Victor recounted to Tynan:

"I was getting that old feeling back again about being on the road, which I'd been on since I was 15. Although I was having a ball playing, there was this tug of war going on with me. Had I been single, I would have stayed maybe a little bit longer."

Victor returned to Hollywood and was soon experiencing the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind'" dynamic as far as those who hire musicians for studio gigs are concerned. And no sooner had he found some work in the studios and had his trio performing at The Scene on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, than a call came in from Peggy Lee to join her for her first European tour. Since the gig included six weeks in England before heading to the French Riviera for 10 days along with Stan Levey on drums, Victor was back on the road again.

The beginning of 1962 found Victor back in the studios with a flood of calls from both Henry Mancini and Marty Paich, among others, and also increasing his activity with his trio, including making two recordings during the year.

The first of these was the jazz version of Stop the World I Want to Get Off (World Pacific, 1963). As Victor told Howard Lucraft, who authored the liner notes:"I've been approached about doing a show album many times. However, this is the first time I made one because this is the first show that has had tunes that make good jazz vehicles.

I tried to make the arrangements as interesting as I could without cluttering the three of us, so that we could relax in our improvising."

Bob Whitlock was once again on bass because, as Victor put it very directly: "I always have Bob with my trio; his greatest asset is his extremely broad knowledge of music."

Somewhat of a surprise to some, although not to others who knew Victor's preferences for hard-driving drummers, Lawrence Marable made the date on drums because according to Victor: "Lawrence is one of the finest drummers in the world. I love his time feeling. I love his solos. When he and I play together we reach terrific peaks of excitement. Lawrence has the greatest intuition."

The nearest thing to a Philly Jo Jones style of drumming on the West Coast, Marable, much like Frank Butler (and, of course, Philly Jo), really emphasized the snare drum in his solos. Whether these were fours, eights or entire choruses, everything came off the snare and Lawrence could really get the thing pulsating and crackling, all of which must have resonated well with Victor's sensibilities. This approach to Jazz drums also explains why Victor was so partial to Colin Bailey, who loved to put emphasis on the snare during his solos; Colin also has incredible snare to bass drum coordination.

As show tune recordings go, this is a remarkably good, musical album, no doubt because Victor always put so much thought into arrangements for his trio. The album has the added bonus of Victor playing vibes while accompanying himself on piano, which he does via "over-dub." As Victor comments to Lucraft: "Actually, I like playing vibes this way best, for recording."

Perhaps it is the presence of Marable, but Victor "comes out smoking" on this album and plays throughout with an air of assurance and forceful determination. You can tell that he has reached a point where what he's hearing in his head can immediately be transported to his hands, especially on piano. Howard Lucraft expresses this point similarly:"In the earlier days of his musical career in America, Feldman was, perforce, somewhat eclectic. Today, he has his own distinctive, driving, agile and assured style. His unique, contrasted chordal work and his compelling, chromatic phrases are arresting features."

Victor altered the trio format ["I wanted to hear another voice"] for another of his 1962 recordings— A Taste of Honey and A Taste of Bossa Nova (Infinity)—by adding tenor sax and flute to his basic trio (and also Laurindo Almeida on guitar for the bossa nova tunes).

As the title indicates, this recording is an admixture of movie themes and songs associated with movies, although Victor manages to put in another version of his original, "New Delhi." Three different groups each make up four tracks, including Buddy Collette (ts/fl), Victor (v/p), Leroy Vinnegar (bass), Ron Jefferson (d), Clifford Scott [ts/fl], Victor [v/p], Laurindo Almeida [g], Al McKibbon (b), Frank Guerrero (percussion); Nino Tempo (ts), Victor (p), Bob Whitlock (b), Colin Bailey (d).

Although the album, with twelve tracks averaging about three minutes each, was primarily aimed at commercial radio play and mass market distribution, there is some very good music on this recording, including Buddy Colette's take on Victor's "New Delhi," the bossa nova version of "Anna," from the movie The Rose Tattoo, for which actress Anna Magnani won the Academy Award, and the Nino Tempo version of another movie song, "Walk on the Wild Side," with the Feldman-Whitlock-Bailey trio.

As someone who was an indirect beneficiary of the "overage," I can personally testify to the fact that during 1962, Victor's studio activity increased dramatically—that is until, as Victor described it, ..." the temptation to travel reappeared." This time it took the form of Benny Goodman's tour of the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic, which commenced on May 28, 1962. According to Ross Firestone (Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life & Times of Benny Goodman, New York: Norton, 1993):"The rhythm section consisted of John Bunch on piano, Turk van Lake on guitar, Bill Crow on bass and Mel Lewis on drums. Teddy Wilson and the vibraphonist Victor Feldman were to be featured on the small group numbers." [p.409]. Victor returned from the Goodman tour of the USSR, but this time he literally picked up where he left off in terms of studio work as there was so much of it and he was such an accomplished reader, both as a pianist/vibraphonist and as an overall percussionist. He was also dependable, prompt and courteous, not to mention very well-liked by the coterie of contractors and first-call studio players.

Also upon his return from the Soviet Union, Victor signed an exclusive recording contract with Fred Astaire's Ava records. The first project that Victor completed for the label was to record three "Jazz Impressions of... " tracks with Bob Whitlock (b) and Colin Bailey (d) to augment the release of the original sound track by Mark Lawrence to the then highly acclaimed film David & Lisa: An Unusual Love Story

But while at Ava records, Victor was at work preparing a real gem of a recording based on compositions that he and Leonard Feather had come across during his trip to Russia with the Goodman band. Released in 1963, The Victor Feldman All-Stars Play Soviet Jazz Themes is composed of two recording sessions involving three Soviet Jazz originals, both with the rhythm section of Bob Whitlock on bass and Frank Butler on drums. The first took place on October 26, 1962 with Victor on vibes, Nat Adderley on cornet, Harold Land on tenor saxophone and Joe Zawinul on piano, and the second session was done on November 12, 1962 with Victor on piano and vibes, Herb Ellis on guitar, Carmel Jones on trumpet and Harold Land once again on tenor.

Leonard Feather's original liner notes offer a perspective on both the Cold War politics of the time as well as the Soviet Jazz musicians and their music, which Victor represented on this recording:"There has never been an album quite like this before in the annals of recorded jazz.

"The very existence of Soviet jazz, of artists who could play or write it, was virtually unknown outside the USSR until 1959. That was the year when two intrepid Americans named Dwike Mitchell and Willie Ruff, in the guise of Yale choral group members, entered the Soviet Union and let it be bruited around that they were really jazz musicians. The resultant impromptu concerts led them to discover that a cadre of young musicians existed whose interest in the American jazz world, bolstered by Voice of America broadcasts, was as deep and intense as their feeling for the music.

"Three years later, on a more official and far more broadly publicized basis, Benny Goodman's band, the first American jazz orchestra of modem times to play the Soviet Union (under U.S. State Department auspices) opened May 30, 1962, at the Central Army Sports Arena in Moscow. On this tour the brilliant and versatile Victor Feldman played vibraphone in the small combo numbers; and most valuably, during the six weeks of the tour, he gained a fairly broad picture of the musical life of the Russians, the Georgians and other citizens of this endless land."

"I was lucky enough to be in Moscow for the opening. and later to spend a little time in Leningrad. At a press conference I heard much talk of arranging for local jazzmen to sit in with Goodman and show him some of their music. The plans failed to materialize however, for B.G. never sought out these Soviet youths whose music amazed those of us who did get together with them. And aside from token gestures such as the use of a couple of Soviet pop songs, there was no acknowledgement in the band's program that such a phenomenon as Soviet jazz existed.

"The aims of Victor Feldman's LP are, first, to compensate for this omission; second, to provide a program of modern jazz by superior soloists with plenty of blowing room; third, to point up the similarities, rather than the differences, that can be found in a comparison of jazz composition as it is conceived in Moscow, Tbilisi or Leningrad vis-a-vis New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

"Soon after arriving in Moscow, we found out that homegrown jazz, supposedly taboo in the USSR, not only wasn't underground or outlawed as had long been believed, but was actually flourishing on a modest scale. It even had young. growing outlets at a Moscow jazz Club, where students earnestly discuss the latest news about John Coltrane or Ornette Coleman, and at a couple of Youth Cafes, where music by the new Soviet jazz wave is often heard live.

"Writing in Down Beat about a visit to the Cafe Aelita. I observed: "It is the closest Moscow comes to a night club ... serves only wine, closes at 11 p.m., and is decorated in a style that might be called Shoddy Modern, though radical by Moscow standards ... the shocker was the trumpet player, Andre Towmosian. who is 19 but looks 14, and plays with the maturity of a long-schooled musician, though in jazz he is self-taught."

"I learned that Towmosian was acclaimed in the fourth annual jazz festival at Tartu, Estonia. (It was amazing enough to learn that there had been any Soviet jazz festival, let alone four.) He was also featured with his quartet at the Leningrad University Jazz Festival; and one of the souvenirs I brought home was a tape, given me in Leningrad, of Towmosian playing Ritual, the original heard in this album.

"Also on tape were some of the compositions of Gennadi (Charlie) Golstain, the alto saxophonist and arranger whose apartment I visited in Leningrad. Though nicknamed for Charlie Parker, clearly he has at least two other idols, for side by side on the wall of his living room I noticed adjacent photographs of two men: Nikolai Lenin and Julian (Cannonball) Adderley.

"Golstain's tapes featured him with a combo similar to the Feldman group an these sides, but he works regularly with a large modern orchestra headed by Yusef Weinstain and writes most of the band's book. He is a soloist of considerable passion, as yet incompletely disciplined and subject to multiple influences, but his dedication is beyond cavil and his writing shows an intelligent absorption of the right influences.

"Several of the fellows in Benny's band jammed a couple of times with Gennadi at our hotel, the Astoria in Leningrad," Victor recalls, "and some of us, including Phil Woods, played with him at the University. He was eager for knowledge and information, like so many of the musicians we met."

"Goldstain is the composer of three of the lines in this set—"Blue Church Blues," "Madrigal," and "Gennadi"—as well as the arranger. or virtual re-composer, of the folk song "Polyushko Polye." (For those curious about the first title, it should be pointed out that the church Gennadi had in mind was not Russian Orthodox, but probably Southern Baptist.)

"Also represented here is a young arranging student named Givi Gachechiladze, the composer of "Vic." He lives in Kiev," says Victor, but he's studying at Tbilisi; and when we arrived at the airport there, he and a group of his friends were at the airport to meet us—with flowers. The next day he gave me this tune, dedicated to me and named for me.'

"The rapport that grew between the Soviet musicians and the Goodman sidemen showed in microcosm the kind of amity that could exist on all social levels if meetings were possible between men and women of the two countries who have common interests. All of us who tasted the hospitality of these devoted jazz musicians and students were touched by their sincerity, their lack of political animosity (many seemed totally apolitical), and their obvious desire to discuss things shared rather than differences.

"The young musicians like Towmosian, Golstain, Constantin Nosvo and Gachechiladze, none beyond their 20s and many in their teens. have not yet earned substantial recognition in their own country. It is ironic that this is the first album featuring Soviet jazz compositions that has ever been recorded, not merely in the U.S.A., but anywhere in the world. For decades American jazz was a prophet un-honored at home; Europeans were the first to give it profound critical attention. Now, in a strange reversal, Americans are the first to draw attention to a set of swinging, unpretentious Soviet jazz pieces that are still waiting to be recorded on home ground.

"The group selected for these two sessions is in itself further reflection of the "United Nations" character of jazz. Here are the works of writers in the Soviet Union, performed in America by a group under the leadership of Victor Stanley Feldman, who came to this country in 1955, at the age of 21, from his native London (the native city also of this writer, who helped organize the sessions); and on the tracks that feature Feldman's vibes the piano is taken over by Joe Zawinul, a superb modern pianist who was born in Vienna and did not arrive here until 1959, Zawinul works regularly with the sextet of Cannonball, whose brother Nat is heard on three tracks ("Ritual," "Madrigal," "Blue Church Blues.")

"Harold Land and Herb Ellis, both from Texas, and Carmell Jones of Kansas are well known to the Soviet insiders, as are drummer Frank Butler from Kansas City and the Utah-born bassist Bob Whitlock.

"Certainly these sides, because of the historic precedent they set and because of the esteem in which Feldman and his colleagues are held in what used to be thought of as the borsch and balalaika belt, will be among the most desirable collectors' items when the first copies reach the Soviet Union. For listeners in this country it is to be hoped that they will help reinforce a concept not of the jazz-as-propaganda-weapon cliche, but the unifying image of this music gathering strength and growing stature as part of a single world."

It is a great disappointment to those who are familiar with the music on this album that it has never been issued as a commercial CD nor received wider recognition, as the music on it is simply superb by any standard of comparison.

Post a comment



Shop Amazon



Read Chico Hamilton: The Master
Read Wayne Shorter: An Essential Top Ten Albums
Read John Clayton: Career Reflections
Read Fire Music: The Story of Free Jazz
Read Jon Hendricks: An Essential Top Ten Albums
Read Meet Jack DiMonte
Out and About: The Super Fans
Meet Jack DiMonte
Read Take Five with Alex Jenkins
Take Five With...
Take Five with Alex Jenkins

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.