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Victor Feldman - Part 2: From Cannonball to Russia


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"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."


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