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


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The piece opens with a statement of the melody on the vibes and bass done in the style of a semi-free introduction. This soon leads to a soft-spoken version the Venezuelan 'Pasaje' rhythm supporting the rest of the performance. 'El Gavilan' is an old traditional 'Joropo,' the composer of which is no longer even known. The text to this song is one of those deceptively simple Spanish folk songs that may be filled with surprising double meanings, which may have been considered the height of spiciness a century ago. This song is given the most authentically Venezuelan treatment of any of the selections on the LP. The little ensemble of instruments that Victor has put together for this performance gives an excellent idea of the fire and bite of a good Venezuelan trio.

Certainly the most amazing piece on the entire record is Victor Feldman's composition 'Passion.' Although it is an original composition by Feldman it captures as much of the true flavor of Venezuelan music as can be heard in 'El Gavilan.' The performance retains the tight synchronized rhythmic quality of Venezuelan music throughout, but it is the natural ease and the strong Venezuelan flavor of the tune itself which make it practically impossible to distinguish from traditional Venezuelan music. Whether or not Venezuelan music henceforth exerts a great wave of influence jazz does not detract in any way from the success and delightfulness of the musical experiments contained in this record."

By the time of his 1969 return to England, a lot had happened in Victor's life, including the fact that in addition to continuing with his standard Jazz trio consisting of Monty Budwig [bass] and Colin Bailey [drums], he had formed the new jazz rock fusion group that he had brought over with him for an engagement at Ronnie Scott's club. In his interview with Les Tomkins, Victor provided this personal and professional update:

'Since my last playing visit back here in '65, I've been over for a holiday in '69, when I just did one little TV spot with Tony Kinsey. This time I brought my family again, and also played at Ronnie's with my regular group. My eldest boy is nine now [Joshua]; the other two are six and five [Jake and Trevor]. I have my nephew with me, a babysitter, and my wife, of course; there's seven of us altogether.

'Only being here for a few days, I really come back as a tourist. I always have a good time when I come over; it doesn't seem to change that much. I'll tell you one thing, Ronnie's club is really great. You know, the acoustics and everything. We were all very excited about working there; it was a lot of fun.

'Our tenor player, Tom Scott, is quite well-known, and is also an excellent writer. John Guerin, our drummer, was born in Hawaii, actually he moved to San Diego when he was very young. I first heard him with Buddy De Franco, and tried to encourage him to come to Los Angeles, because I loved playing with him right away.

'Finally he did make the move, and now he's one of the most in-demand drummers in the city. He does all kinds of work, from rock things to jingles.

'The most recent showcase for our bassist, Chuck Domanico, was a cello quartet album on A&M Records with Roger Kellaway - who is a brilliant, very creative musician.

'It isn't four cellos, you understand; it's with Chuck, and Roger's playing piano, Emil Richards is on percussion instruments. The 'cello player is Edgar Lustgarten. Really a beautiful thing. Anyway, Chuck is very busy, because besides being a great musician, he's very distinctive and very telepathic. Actually, we feel that telepathy element with all of us, playing together.

'We all do sessions most of the time; so we're a bit frustrated, due to not getting enough chances to play. However, we do get to work in clubs like Donte's. And just before we left we'd started at a little place called the Baked Potato, on Monday nights; we also played a weekend there. When we get back, we're hoping to do some concerts around. But we don't have to go on the road any more - I've had enough of that. If we can just work these kind of jobs in, well have more of a fulfilling life. Although we do get to play a variety of music in the studios-including. a lot that we don't like. In some of the idioms you can improvise to an extent; for instance, I play conga drums sometimes. I very rarely play piano on recordings over there, because I'm a little bit stubborn; I like to play my way.

'I'm known as a general percussionist. The only thing I don't do is play sit-down drums too much any more; but I'm liable to start again, if I can get time to just get myself together with it for a few days, or weeks. So I play congas, tymps, and the whole family of percussion instruments.


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