Under Appreciated Artist of the Week

Victor Feldman: Perfect Percussionist extroardinaire (Part 1)

You may not have heard of Victor Feldman….but you have most likely heard his exquisite playing if you’ve listened to any various forms of popular music over the past 50 years or so…. The piano on the original version of Miles Davis’ ‘Seven Steps To Heaven’? Victor. (In fact he co-wrote that song)..the instrumental music to ABC TV shows in the early 1960s?? Victor….the snazzy latin percussion on Steely Dan’s ‘Do It Again’? Victor. The classy ambience to Joni Mithchell’s mid-70s jazz experiments?? Victor….

In fact Victor Feldman had a most extraordinary career that

saw him active from the age of six straight up to his death in the mid-1980’s at the age of 53. If you love Zappa…Glenn Miller…Tom Scott…Three Dog Night….or Cannon Ball Adderly….you love Victor Feldman…he played with them all and left an indelible mark on their sound….(ok maybe not those Three Dog Night records..)

An English Child Prodigy: ‘Kid Krupa’

Feldman’s remarkable story started at the young age of six when he was enlisted by his father to play at a jazz club that he ran in during World War II. In fact young Victor even sat in as ‘Kid Krupa’ during sets played by the great Glenn Miller. Miller called the jazzy youngster, “The greatest young percusionist ever created!” Such was the era that kid Feldman even appeared in two movies, ‘Theatre Royal’ and ‘King Arthur Was a Gentleman’ before joining the Eddie Carroll band as a vibraphonist. By the early 1950’s old Vic was also an accomplished conga player and was touring exotic places in far off India.

Back in London in the 1950’s Feldman worked closely with the legendary Ronnie Scott who encouraged him to go to the States and find fame and fortune there. Soon after Feldman was working with Woody Herman in California, an artist he would reunite with for a very cool record some 20 years later. By 1957 Feldman was a successful solo artist recording 3 dazzling LP’s Suite Sixteen (Contempary) , Vic feldman on Vibes (Mode) and Victor Feldman’s Arrival (Contempary), with the likes of Stan Levey, Tubby Hayes, Buddy DeFranco, Vince Guaraldi and Scott LaFaro.

Seven Sessions to a 60’s Heaven

As the 1960s dawned Victor Feldman had added the piano as an instrument that he had “Feldman-ized”. His unique and rewarding sound can be heard on Shelly Manne’s famous At The Black Hawk (Contemporary) and his own Merry Olde Soul (Riverside) and Cannon Ball Adderly’s At The Lighthouse (Riverside).

By 1963 Victor Feldman had even entered into Miles Davis’ world and in between a busy recording schedule of soundtracks and jingles with the ABC TV Orchestra Feldman got a call to join Miles for a San Francisco gig. Recording sessions soon followed in LA with Miles adding 2 Feldman songs to his repetoire, Joshua and Seven Steps To Heaven, the latter of which would be the title-track of his next Columbia album.

In the mid-60’s Feldman recorded several albums for Vee Jay Records and by 1967 was a regular fixture at the Donte’s nightclub in North Hollywood. In ’67 he also recorded a one-off psych-out set for Liberty Records, Victor Feldman Plays Everything In Sight, which unfortunately never was reissued on CD…would be nice hear his drum and vibes version of ‘Sunshine Superman’ which closes out the album. Another lost gem of this era was The Venezuela Joropo, which included arrangement help from Marty Paich.

Both of these records seem to have established Feldman’s unique nouvea-Latin melodic approach to percussion that would make hi one of the top session players of the 1970s. As the 1960’s closed Feldman had finally formed a band of his own, a quartet that included a young Tom Scott on sax….the 70s….awaited…and LA was the place to be…
(to be continued)