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Vito Rezza and 5 after 4: Drums of Avila

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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One conundrum that bedevils the jazz music industry is that oftentimes a critically acclaimed artist may not necessarily be as well known as he or she should. The work of Vito Rezza bears testimony to this unseemly fact. For instance, Drums of Avila (Alma 2004), now being reissued for the US market in 2008 is Vito Rezza and 5 after 4's fifth record. Enormously talented and a virtual legend in the world of percussion, Rezza is much in demand among musicians (he has drummed for Joni Mitchell, "Big Mama" Thornton and Gino Vanelli, to name a few) who value his eclecticism and rhythmic virtuosity as much as they do his harmonic and melodic sensibility. Yet he is relatively under-serviced even in Canada, where he lives and records.

Rezza thinks like a pianist from behind his drum set and he is comfortable in virtually any setting—from swinging straight-ahead to complex Latin. In this respect he is like Peter Erskine and Vinnie Colaiuta, and a handful of others, who jump out melodically and harmonically when they are required, then drop back and keep perfect time so others can stretch and swing in the changes. They sing and dance around the music that is never written but always suggested. They lavish attention on the skins of various drumheads and treat their cymbals to rim shots and brush strokes as they paint superlative dynamics onto a great canvas of sound. For Vito Rezza, the time for adulation should have come long ago. But now is also a good time to discover this extraordinary percussionist.

Drums of Avila is packed with music that soars with an embarrassment of rich textures and sophisticated rhythms. The stellar cast of musicians playing scores of instruments also makes this record truly grand. Colaiuta doubles with Rezza on two tracks and is a magnificent foil for Rezza on the breathtaking title track as well as on "Manhattan Bounce." The late tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker guests on the aforementioned track where he makes a majestic statement throughout. Guido Basso on flugelhorn together with the chromatic harmonica of Toots Thielemans and Joey DeFrancesco's Hammond B3 are unforgettable on "Vichnu's Dream." Toots returns to grace the proceedings on "In Dreams" an ethereally beautiful chart from the pen of producer Peter Cardinali's daughter, Kristy, which is sung by another monstrously talented artist, Benani Choudhury.

DeFrancesco and vocalist, Christopher Rouse, turn "Help Me Find" into an otherworldly masterpiece. The master percussionist, Rick Lazar and his Samba Squad, pepper "Clowns" with the rhythms of a "favela" to raise the heat of the record to a cold blue flame. The angular lines of Kevin Breit's guitar and sonorous kalimba of Nexus master percussionist Bob Becker add a great swath of spice to the rhythms of "Tontella." This record is a tour de force for Rezza and much of this has to do also because he is a fine composer, evidenced by six outstanding compositions. And it could not have come any sooner.

Track Listing: Drums Of Avila; Manhattan Bounce; Vichnu's Dream; Tonotella; Help Me Find; Don Quixote; In Dreams; Clowns; Number Nine.

Personnel: Vito Rezza: drums; Michael Brecker: tenor saxophone (2); John Johnson: flute and alto flute, soprano, alto and tenor saxophone and bass clarinet (1, 6, 8), wood flute and alto flute, bass clarinet and soprano saxophone (4); Steve Kennedy: tenor saxophone and vocals (5); Toots Thielemans: chromatic harmonica 3, 7); Guido Basso: flugelhorn (3); Joey DeFrancesco: Hammond B3 (2, 3, 5) Vinnie Colaiuta: drums (1, 2); Peter Cardinali: producer, electric and fretless bass (1, 2, 5, 8, 9), accordion (4, 8); Richard Bona: bass (4); Alexis Puentes: bass (6), nylon string guitar (8); Kevin Breit: guitar (3-6, 9); Tony Zorzi: guitar (6); Rob Piltch: guitar (3, 5); Matt Horner: Fender Rhodes, synthesizer and piano (1, 4, 6, 9): Jonathan Goldsmith: Fender Rhodes and piano (7); Christopher Rouse: vocals and background vocals(5); Benani Choudhury: vocals (7); Armando Borg: percussion (5); The Samba Squad with Rick Lazar: repinique; Janet McLelland, Danielle Lafond and Lisa Richardson: caixa; Frank Hayashi and Norm Jones: tamborim; Gilli Gurvitz, Layah Davis, Guiomar Campbell: tamborim; Linda Brown: ganza; Lyba Spring: a-go-go bell (9); Bratislava Radio Symphony; Horns arranged by Peter Cardinali.

Title: Drums of Avila | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Alma Records

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