The sound of a clean, bright piano cast upbeat jazz images across the cemetery.

It was the day the Hollywood set went to Beverly Hills to mourn Rita Hayworth in front of the inevitable television and newspaper cameras.

Less visibly, as is their place in Hollywood, another group of entertainers gathered Monday afternoon on a grassy hill in a Westlake Village cemetery.

They came to mourn a musician who died last week. He was relatively unknown to the wider world but a luminary in his trade.

British-born prodigy Victor Feldman, a self-taught vibraphonist, percussionist and pianist who became Britain's "Kid Krupa" during World War II, died in his Woodland Hills home Tuesday, the morning after his last recording session.

About 350 of the musicians who had worked with Feldman from his arrival in the United States shortly after the war to the days before his death gathered under oak trees to pay tribute to a man who had crossed barriers of nationality, race, generation and musical style.

It was a bittersweet affair.

Feldman had obviously been loved by his colleagues.

Yet this was a group whose existential track in life easily sidestepped the traditional dark suits and dark moods of funerals.

Young men and women in Melrose Avenue fashions mixed with gray-haired men in bright blazers and slacks, along with a few more dedicated nonconformists who wore cotton shirts and jeans.

They shook hands, hugged, exchanged stories and news about their current work and remembered their ties to Feldman.

When pressed for details about themselves, most gave lavish compliments to others in the crowd who they assured me were greater.

"Jack Russin, greatest piano player in Los Angeles," said Merv Griffin's bandleader, Mort Lindsay, waving a hand toward an older man in a green and white plaid jacket and pastel shoes.

Russin waved off the introduction as highly exaggerated.

"But I've played some great parties, I'll tell you that," Russin said. Then he began to reminisce about one of them, with Henry Mancini.

The formal part of the memorial was short and eloquent.

John Greenlee, minister of the First Christian Church of Thousand Oaks, quoted Thomas Wolfe alongside the 23rd Psalm and this line from an anonymous poet:

" 'Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory.'

"His soft voice is gone but the music vibrates in the memory . . . " Greenlee said.

Greenlee reviewed what everyone there knew well, that Feldman recorded thousands of pop and jazz records and hundreds of movie and television sound tracks; that he toured with greats like Benny Goodman, Cannonball Adderly and Miles Davis; that he worked with musicians as diverse as Frank Sinatra and the Doobie Brothers; that he was winner of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences' most valuable musician award for 1980, 1981 and 1982.

That his career had quieted after the death of his wife Marilyn, in 1984.

"But there was joy in recent weeks," Greenlee said, "that he had been gradually returning . . . through the continuing pain, taking up again the work, regaining the joy of music."

Greenlee said his benediction would be followed by Feldman's last recording.

"He made it with his son Trevor and with John Patitucci," Greenlee said. "It was only a few hours before he was stricken with the massive fatal heart attack which took his life."

The minister's "Amen" led immediately to a soft voice saying, "One, two. One, two. . . ."

Then the sound of a clean, bright piano cast upbeat jazz images across the cemetery.

Stumpy Brown, brother of Les Brown of the Band of Renown, made the first move to break the tension. The diminutive musician, wearing a fuchsia blazer, danced a quick swing step as he approached an old friend.

Some of the crowd stood in line to be received by Feldman's three sons, Trevor, Jake and Josh. The rest began to make the rounds.

Brown pointed out some of the big names present: Tommy Newsom, Hubert Laws, Johnny Mandel and Shorty Rogers, the father of West Coast Be Bop.

"There's a lot of men here who've never been greats of jazz," he added. "But they're still musicians."

Young and old gave personal tributes to Feldman.

"The one thing I hear from everybody is that he was just a sweet, gentle man," said Larry Williams, a young man with spiky blond hair who had played some "jazz things, funk things, rock things" with Feldman on the Generation Band.

Bill Henderson, a former vocalist with Cannonball Adderly, recalled: "Cannon used to introduce Victor as another kind of soulful person, like we all got soul but Victor's got another kind of soul coming from a place in England."

After an hour, the crowd began to thin.

A man with short gray hair who wore a blue Yukon shirt made his way down the hill, leaning on a cane. He was Lou Levy, Frank Sinatra's pianist.

Another man reached out to shake Levy's hand.

"Great drummer, John Guerin," Levy said, introducing him to me.

"How's he singing?" Guerin asked."

"Great. He's back to himself," Levy said.

Levy looked back up the hill at old friends.

"There's still plenty of good ones up on that hill," he said.

And Sinatra's voice is great again.

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