Feldman Swing Club...
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The Feldman Swing Club...
The Feldman Swing Club, (also known as the No1 Swing Club), began life in 1942 and was the first London club where jazz only was played, albeit for only one night a week at first. It continued through the war years on until 1954 when increasing competition from other clubs led to its demise. Maurice Burman writing in Jazz Journal in 1950 reckoned "nearly every bop player of note plays and was discovered at the Feldman Club. Johnny Dankworth, Ronnie Scott, Leon Calvert, Henry Shaw, Ralph Sharon, Eddie Thompson, Ronnie Ball, Bernie Fenton, Mac Minshull, Tony Crombie, Laurie Morgan, Flash Winstone, Don Rendell, Harry Klein, Joe Muddel, Pete Chilver, Lennie Bush, Dave Goldberg, Tommy Pollard, Victor Feldman and many others. Leon Roy and his Band, the only large bop band in the country at the time made it's debut at the Feldman Club and was extremely well received...
The Feldman Swing Club opened its doors for the first time on Sunday October 24th, 1942 at 7.30pm. According to the Melody Maker "it would provide London enthusiasts with what they had always lacked, a regular home for swing music where they could meet, dance, and listen to jazz music from star players". The club had been founded by Monty and Robert Feldman with the financial assistance of their father Joe. A third brother was of course Victor Feldman who began his playing career at the club while still a precociously talented child and went on to become a world renowned jazz musician.

The premises chosen were a basement restaurant at 100 Oxford Street, London known as Mac's Restaurant and a deal was struck to rent the basement for the next three Sundays at 4 per night. By selling club membership for 5 shillings (25p) per annum with reduced entrance fee thereafter the Feldman's raised enough money to get the club started. They advertised it as the "No1 Swing Club" and the first band to which members were invited to dance and listen was Kenny Baker, Jimmy Skidmore, Frank Weir, Tommy Pollard, Tommy Bromley and Bobby Midgeley. The guest artists were to be The Feldman Trio, Monty who played accordian and Robert playing alto saxophone plus young Vic on drums.

The club was an instant success and began to open on Saturdays as well. The atmosphere was described as electric with the low ceiling vibrating from the sound, and there were queues to get in going halfway down Oxford Street. The lives of Robert and Monty changed, they made a lot of money from the club and gave up their jobs in their fathers clothing firm. They began to wear expensive clothing and spent their time booking musicians and generally running the club. It should be remembered that up to then the only places to hear live jazz was in the wartime unlicensed clubs known as "bottle parties" where the patrons brought their own bottle with them. According to Ronnie Scott "they were peopled by ladies of the night and wartime guards officers out for a good time".

The club allowed dancing and was patronised by American Servicemen and visiting American musicians who would head straight for the club that was advertised as "The Mecca of Swing" when they were in London. Glenn Miller and members of his band visited for a night of big band music and besides every English jazz musician of note there were Americans of the calibre of Benny Goodman, Art Pepper and Spike Robinson. Ballad and blues singer Jimmy James remembers a night in 1944 when the musicians on the stand included Tony Crombie (aged 19), Johnny Dankworth (17), Carlo Krahmer, Phil Seamen (18), Victor Feldman (just 10), and Ronnie Scott (17). Frank Holder confirms that the club only booked the best "everybody was dying to play there - and the club was important for black musicians. The only criteria was how good you were".
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A sextet comprising Reg Arnold (trumpet), Johnny Dankworth (alto), Ronnie Scott (tenor), Ralph Sharon (piano), Jack Fallon (bass), and a young Victor Feldman (drums).


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The photographs from the 1940s (before Club Eleven in 1948) give an indication of the bands who played there. Besides the picture above other photos show Kenny Baker (trumpet), Jock Bain (trombone), Bob Burns (tenor), Tommy Pollard (piano) and Pete Chilver (guitar), with an unknown bass player and drummer and another shows trumpeter Denis Rose with Jimmy Skidmore (tenor), Derek Neville (baritone), Robert Feldman (clarinet), Bert Howard (bass) and Carlo Krahmer (drums).

New Orleans style bands such as George Webb's Dixielanders and The Crane River Jazz Band also appeared at the club. Johnny Dankworth appeared with Freddy Mirfield and his Garbage Men, another traditional group.

The club continued until 1954 but then Robert said he started to lose interest. Other clubs were opening on different days of the week at the same premises, notably The London Jazz Club and the Humphrey Lyttelton Club (two nights a week), and the modernists had moved to other venues. Some nights the Feldman Swing Club did alright but towards the end not so much and the Feldmans decided not to book the club for another year. The Club became a mainly traditional jazz venue and at some stage became known as The 100 Club. The premises are still in use today (2008), under that name although most gigs there now are of the one off rock music variety. The premises have changed little over the years, the same gloomy staircase leads down into the club and it is impossible not to think of all the great jazz names that have trod the stairs over the years when entering the club...

After closing the Feldman Club Robert Feldman decided to try his luck in New York, but this wasn't a great success. He said later "it was hopeless..." Victor Feldman, younger brother of Robert and Monty, who had been one of the major attractions in the early days of the club emigrated to the US and became a musician of international renown. More pictures from the Feldman club...

A personal memory of the club from Bill Towers...
I was there one war time night when Glen Miller and some of his American Band of the AEF dropped in. What a night for me seeing and hearing US jazz musicians in the flesh for the first time- I remember seeing Beryl Davies dancing with a member of the band whilst the rest played Star Eyes. I shall always remember that tune because of that magical night.This was in 1944 and sadly Glen Miller died shortly after this.
I add a piece of trivia - no alcohol was served on the premises so the session musicians went out to the nearest pub leaving the stage vacant for visiting musicians to jam. Ever grateful to the Feldmans for allowing me to see and hear the best of the British jazz musicians. Further trivia -it was very interesting to see some of the clothes the musicians wore, bought on trips to New York. It made me envious struggling with utility clothing and clothes rationing.

Prior to the opening of the Feldman Swing Club in 1942 the only jazz "clubs" were "Societies" or "Rhythm Clubs" where 78rpm records were played by a recitalist who discussed a particular aspect of jazz music and illustrated his talk musically. some of these "Rhythm Clubs" held occasional jam sessions, however dancing was not permitted and a concert atmosphere prevailed...

In April 1996 Jazz Journal published a detailed article on the birth of the Feldman Swing Club based on a series of interviews by Barbara Feldman with Robert Feldman, Monty Feldman's wife Helen and other members of the family. Victor Feldman.


This page was last updated during January, 2010.
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