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


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"I was fortunate enough this time to get two weeks at Shelly Manne's club, the Manne—Hole, in Los Angeles. I was also very fortunate to work with Victor Feldman's trio. That was a most enjoyable experience. As you know, I've known Victor for about 15 years and worked with him in the past over here on several record dates and in the clubs. He has a very tightly—knit trio now, with Monty Budwig on bass and Colin Bailey on drums.

'They've worked quite a bit together. I took over some of my original material, plus a few of the arrangements of standards that I use with the quartet here. We also did some of the things Victor had written, mainly to feature him on vibes and me on flute, which made a contrast to the tenor—and—three— rhythm type of thing.

'I didn't bother to play the vibes, because his playing is so tremendous that anything I did would have been quite superfluous. From the musicianship point of view, it was wonderful to work with the trio. I wouldn't say it was better than working with Cedar Walton's trio, which I did in New York last year, because that was fantastic, you know. This was a different sort of feel in a lot of ways, but equally as good.

'Victor can hold his own anywhere, I think, on piano or vibes. And he's brilliant when it comes to piano backing for a soloist. He thinks one step ahead of you all the time, without actually bugging you. Like, certain piano players I know think one step ahead of you, and they play what you're going to play—and mess you up something horrible. Whereas, Victor will just suggest little things. And you find yourself doing things, not that you thought you couldn't do, but that you'd never thought of doing.

'It's beautiful—gets you tingling all over. He's putting ideas into your head —without actually knocking on your head. He's always had that ability, but I'd sort of forgotten about it. Working with him every night, I found that, where I might go into the same kind of thing two nights running, he'd switch me away from that and make me do something different. On the opening night, George Shearing came down and sat in on piano. Victor went on the vibes and we played a couple of tunes—'Soon' and 'Nardis,' I think it was. I went all the way to Los Angeles, and I'm up on the bandstand with three Limeys and one American!

' ...The amount of jazz work there is for people like Victor and Colin Bailey is not so great, actually. Victor does tremendously in the studios. The audiences in Shelly's were great. You could hear a pin drop when I played a ballad, or when Victor was playing the vibes, something like that. They were a really appreciative audience, and I was told that they're pretty discerning, too."

Thanks to Chuck Niles, a Los Angeles based Jazz FM radio announcer and a huge fan of Tubby's playing, I found out on one of his broadcasts that this gig was happening and I was fortunate to hear the group during Tubs' stay at Shelly's. You could tell just by their banter before and after tunes that Tubby and Victor were happy to be in one another's company again, both musically and socially, with the result being music that was simply sublime. Because of other studio commitments, Victor had to send a substitute to the first set of the gig on a few occasions [Mike Melvoin comes to mind], but he told me that "I almost got myself killed rushing to Shelly's. I connected with Tubby during that gig in a way that I never had before during our days in London together. It was frightening how locked-in we were at times. We all had a ball."

The Venezuela Joropo, Victor's next recording in 1967, brings to mind once again Philip Elwood's assessment of "... his knowledge of rhythms and meters, and the possibilities inherent in combining melodic lines with percussion expressions, greatly expounds the sounds of any group within which he works." Only someone with Victor's bent-of-mind could even conceive of taking music such as this into a Jazz setting.

Latinsville, an album done much earlier in his career, was Victor's first, major recorded statement of his affinity for various Latin jazz styles. And while it served as a precursor to The Venezuela Joropo, it can also be considered a direct link to it from the standpoint of Victor's lifelong fascination with different rhythms and his uncanny ability to place them successfully in a Jazz context.

Another influence that helped spawn the original 1958-59 recording project was the great admiration that Victor had for Cal Tjader, both as a vibraphonist and as a fellow drummer, and the Latin jazz music Cal was then performing with his quintet.


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