Thursday, August 13, 2015

Victor Feldman Plays Everything In Sight

© -  Steven A. Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

Many multi-instrumentalists had fun with over-dubbing and or multi-tracking when the long-playing record and audio tape first became a part of the Jazz scene in the 1950’s. I mean, why not try to coordinate recording all the instruments you can play even if what’s fun for you was an audio nightmare for the engineers in the pre-digital age?

Pianist like Lennie Tristano and Bill Evans were early experimenters with multi-tracking as was pianist Victor Feldman.

And then, of course, there was Rashaan Roland Kirk who played three reed instruments at the same time thereby obviating the need for multi-tracking entirely!

Because of Victor Feldman’s proficiency on vibes, drums and a host of other percussion instruments, it was only a matter of time before Victor took multi-tracking to another level by “playing everything in sight.”

More details about Victor’s career and his multi-tracking project can be found in Arnold Shaw’s liner notes to Victor Feldman Plays Everything In Sight [Pacific Jazz - PJ-10121].

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 he produces.

Born in London in April 1934, Feldman played drums on the concert stage at the age of six — they called him Kid Krupa — performed at London's Rhythm Club at seven, guested with Glenn Miller's AEF band at nine, and became Britain's #1 vibe man while he was still in his teens. For five successive years, he won Musical Express' top award. Migrating to the United States in 1955, he worked with Woody Herman for a year, was a member of the Lighthouse All Stars from '57 to '59, gigged with Cannonball Adderley's Quintet for a year and accompanied Peggy Lee on her first European tour. When Benny Goodman brought jazz to Russia at the request of the State Department, Feldman was invited along a.s featured player both with the sextet as well as the King of Swing's big band. Just before he embarked off the one-man musical journey incorporated in this LP, Feldman wrote and recorded an album with Miles Davis, Seven Steps to Heaven.

In Hollywood, where he settled shortly after his marriage to the former Marilyn McGrath —they live in Woodland Hills with their three sons and two rabbits named Peter add Bartok—Feldman functions as one of the busiest of studio musicians. He records regularly with such artists as Frank Sinatra, Hank Mancini, Bobby Darin — you name them — playing timpani, celeste, marimba and xylophone. Albums bearing his own signature are to be heard on many labels and include a jazz version of the score of the Broadway hit Stop the World, I Want to Get Off and a recent LP, The World's First Album of Soviet Jazz Themes.

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 drum track first. I work from a sketch arrangement, adding other instruments as I go along. 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. (I started out playing drums as a kid, studied piano, and vibes came third.) Afterward, I put in the decorative touches — like a punctuating triangle in 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 more vita! matters of pulse and beat. And don't overlook the engineering problems involved. Dick Bock, who produced this LP, as well as his engineers, did a masterful job of balancing the various instruments and keeping.the sound fresh and vibrant through the. various"stages of recording."

In the course of the ten songs comprising this LP, Feldman plays virtually every percussive and rhythm instrument available, and plays them all with a virtuosity and vigor that are overwhelming. His mastery of both keyboard instruments (piano and electric piano) is evident in Do the Jake, a gospel spellbinder, and in By Myself, which combines impressive multi-fingered chording and attractive one-finger jazz styling. Vibe improvisation peaks in Sure As You're Born [Johnny Mandel theme for the movie Harper which starred Paul Newman]. His superb handling of Fender bass piano contributes mightily to the jazz waltz Have A Heart and the swinging hit of the Glenn Miller years, In the Mood. His drumming throughout is of such a high order as to make this, a solid dance album. Considering his finger dexterity in playing various keyboard instruments, it is startling that he handles the bongos and conga drums, which tend to toughen one's hands, with such force—listen to Geronimo. What counts in any album, a part from an artist's display of virtuosity, is the musical content. To put it simply, regardless of the number of instruments Feldman plays, this is an instrumental LP for repeat listening.”

The following video features Victor’s piano and vibes playing at its swinging best on By Myself as set to images and drawing of the Angels Flight funicular in Los Angeles, CA.

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