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


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"A few years ago I made another multi-dubbed album on Liberty; I once did that over here for Carlo Krahmer's Esquire label...Victor Feldman Plays Everything In Sight. On most of the tracks I played the drums first. I used a metronome in my ear on the first tune I did; then after that I did without the metronome. I had to act it out in my mind, visualizing what the end-product was going to be, and try and make it sound spontaneous, too, if I could. It was quite challenging, and I was happy with some of it.

"The record company talked me into doing tunes that I wasn't overjoyed about; but some of them surprised me, in that, in spite of that obstacle, I managed to make something happen with them. I get very annoyed, though, about that kind of thing. I don't think I'm an egomaniac, but I really like to do my own things the way I want to do them. I don't mind somebody making suggestions, but not to insist on you doing what they say. I understand, too, that they've got to try and sell the record. And if they sell records, then they can make more.

"There are companies who do put money back from their record sales, and try to record same more artistic things. In other words, things that they don't necessarily think are going to sell a whole lot, but they put their creative energy behind it to try and sell it. To me this element seems to be sadly lacking in the record business. That's one thing in the last few years that's been a bit disturbing, that record companies have seemed to be less and less inclined to put their profit to use in this way.

"Now, I don't know every company; so I could be wrong about it. But I am doing sessions every day, and I see what's going on, the kind of thing they're recording, their attitude and everything. It's very pleasant working in the studios most of the time, but there does seem to be this obsession with the dollar, or the pound. I make a good living at it - so I don't wish to sound hypocritical, you know."

And Arnold Shaw offered these (at times, melodramatic) comments about the recording in his liner notes to Victor Feldman Plays Everything In Sight :

"Victor Feldman without a musical instrument is like an elephant without tusks, a lion without a roar, a fish without fins. Master of so many instruments it is difficult to keep track, he undertakes the more difficult feat in this debut LP on World Pacific by playing many of them simultaneously. Marvel at the musicianship of this one-man band, but savor with delight the feast of swinging and ear-tingling sounds it produces.

Although this is not Feldman's first recording, as a one-man-band—he made an LP for Esquire while he was still a British musician—it is his first release in the genre here. In response to questions regarding the mechanics of playing all the instruments himself he explained:

'I start out by recording either the piano or the drum track first. I work from a sketch arrangement, adding other instruments as I go along [for the record, in addition to piano, vibes and drums, Victor also employs on the album: novachord, alto vibes, tympani, electric piano, electric fender bass piano, organ, marimba, xylophone, conga drum, tambourine, chocalho, jawbone, cowbells, triangle and squeak sticks].

'Once the melodic and harmonic designs are clearly established, I bring in the Fender bass piano, which is so important to the rhythm. I introduce my third major instrument toward the end. Afterwards, I put in the decorative touches—like a punctuating triangle on 'Have a Heart.' It takes a minimum of four demanding hours in the studio to complete a tune. The toughest part is getting back into the swing of a number each time around, not merely the problem of timekeeping but the vital matters of beat and pulse.

'And don't overlook the engineering problems involved. Dick Bock, who produced this LP, as well as the engineers[Lanky Linstrot & Dino Lappas], did a masterful job of balancing the various instruments and keeping the sound fresh and vibrant through the various stages of recording."

While Victor is certainly correct about the unevenness of the music on the ten tracks that comprise the album, from a purely Jazz perspective it does contain three outstanding performances: [1] "By Myself"—the only thing better than the rousing piano choruses on this track are the vibes solo choruses that follow them [2] "Sure As Your Born"—yet another version of Johnny Mandel's then popular theme from the 1966 movie Harper, which once again shows both Victor's singularity and originality as a vibraphonist, and [3] Have a Heart, played as a jazz waltz and featuring more of Victor's characteristic rollicking and percussive piano work.

Also in 1967, British tenor saxophonist Tubby Hayes made his fourth appearance in the States, as part of the exchange scene with Ronnie's Scott 's club [the "New Place" on 47 Firth Street]. As Tubby tells it in an interview with Les Tomkins:


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