Nov./Dec. 2004

Vito Rezza and 5after4 – Drums of Avila CD release
November 16, 2004 The Pilot Tavern Toronto
Report by Stanley Fefferman with photo by Roger Humbert
5After4 is a band built around a drummer — Vito Rezza (pronounced 'retsa'). There is more than backbeat and ornamentation of soloists going on here: the drum's the thing, as it was for The Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey at the hub. As part of the Drums of Avila album release celebration at the Pilot Tavern in Toronto, hosted by Peter Cardinali and the staff of Alma Records, Vito and three of the album players, did a few numbers from the album, a kind of snack preview of the full feast, which includes 19 players plus a full European orchestra. A detailed report on the album will follow this piece in a few days, when I have time to absorb it, but in the meantime, here are some impressions of Vito's drumming.
His recurring signature, like the wire-twist of a bomb-maker, is a single rifleshot report of stick on snare. It happens sporadically in the midst of a tom-tom roll, or it can signal the abrupt end of a number. In any case, despite my rifle metaphor, it's not an aggressive sound. It's more just wakeful. The tunes that end with a drum crescendo that builds and, at a signal from the rifleshot, just cuts off, creates a moment of space that sucks in all the pent-up energy of the audience which explodes in a huge roar of release. Very interesting work going on here.
Vito Rezza
Several of the numbers began quietly, in a contemplative mood, with John Johnson's vulnerable soprano saxophone while Vito taps and swishes away with brushes on cymbal, high-hat and toms. The mood intensifies and builds. Vito's drumming accelerates, develops a relentless forward movement towards a drum break where the snare rolls and cracks, the tom-toms boom, the cymbals splash, until, as in the last number they played, Matt Horner's keyboards come alive singing in concert with the sax and Pat Kilbride's funky, heartstopping bass joins in, solos, the drums go really, really crazy, the whole room seems to levitate, and 'BANG', there's a rifleshot, and it all vanishes into space like the track of a bird in the sky.

Other highlights of the evening were: the band's rendition of Kristy Cardinali's composition "In Dreams", especially John Johnson's lyrical work on alto; the news that one of the album Fender Rhodes players, Robert Botos, took first place this summer in the The 6th Montreux Jazz Piano Solo Competition; and Vito's explanation that the 'Avila' in the album title is a small beach between San Francisco and L.A. where there was an oilspill lately and he did some drumming there to heal the earth.

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