British-Born Jazz Prodigy Victor Feldman Dies
Victor Feldman, a British-born prodigy who was a self-taught vibraphonist, percussionist and pianist, was found dead of an apparent heart attack Tuesday morning in his Woodland Hills home.
He was found by Trevor Feldman, one of his three sons and a drummer. With their father on piano, Trevor and his brother Jake, a bassist, became the Victor Feldman Trio.
The father and sons had been rehearsing Monday evening when Feldman complained of shortness of breath. He seemed all right after returning home, said Feldman’s third son, Josh, business manager for the group, but he was found dead in the morning.
Feldman was 53 and taught himself to play drums by listening to his brothers as a boy in London. He was playing jazz at age 7, had made a record at 8 and began to study the piano at 9.
During World War II he was known in England as “Kid Krupa,” after the American drummer Gene Krupa. He was a youthful guest star with the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band and came to the United States after winning five magazine awards as Great Britain’s top vibraphonist.
He settled in Los Angeles after touring with the Woody Herman band and began to work regularly with the Lighthouse All Stars from 1957 to 1959. He was heard on the old “Peter Gunn” TV series as part of Henry Mancini’s band and in 1962 went to the Soviet Union as Benny Goodman’s vibraphonist.
He joined Miles Davis and for him wrote “Seven Steps to Heaven.” Leonard Feather, The Times jazz critic, said Davis wanted Feldman to become his regular keyboardist but Feldman did not want to leave his wife and family to go on the road. Herbie Hancock took Feldman’s place, Feather said, and went on to establish an international jazz reputation.
In the ensuing years, Feldman crossed regularly from mainstream pop music to jazz and rock ‘n’ roll, accompanying Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond, Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers and Kenny Loggins, among others. He was heard on countless movie and TV sound tracks and had recently been on tour with his Generation Band, a group he formed with fellow studio musician and saxophonist Tom Scott.
Feather said that although Feldman may have died of a heart attack, “he never really got over his wife’s death in 1984.”
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at Pierce Brothers Valley Oaks Memorial Park in Westlake Village.