Vincent Livolsi and I go back. Waaaaaaay back! Vinny and I met in 5th grade, and pretty much throughout all of middle school we were inseparable. I remember countless days playing at his house, video games, swimming in the pool, his crazy dog Spike, his Mom's cooking! Hell, I even kissed the first girl of my life at his house! As memorable as all that was nothing etched itself into my mind more than the huge drum kit in his basement playroom, and how amazingly he could play them at such a young age.
I was a huge music fan even at such a young age. I probably had every Led Zeppelin album on tape or vinyl, and I was getting into some of the classic hard rock bands like Judas Priest, Ozzie, Metallica, etc.. When I heard Vinny playing Moby Dick literally dead on I was smart enough to know that he was something special. In today's world you see a 5th grader playing John Bonham dead perfect on YouTube with a million views and comments. But back then you really only heard stories of unicorns like this. But me, I got to sit and watch him every time we hung out. He would ramble on about Neil Peart and countless other drummers and why they were great. I didn't understand a word of the music language, but I knew they must be good if they played stuff that Vinny could play!
In a strange irony our friendship never died, but like many young kids we drifted apart as we got older. I was not a musician at all at this point of my life. My only claim to musical fame was being kicked out of middle school band for blowing fart noises into my French Horn during recital. What I was becoming very good at was baseball. My life became a barrage of practice, games, batting cages, tournaments, you name it. Vinny on the other hand was carving his natural path in music. Briefly our paths would cross throughout High School, but not often. Not as often as I wished looking back. My last memory of Vinny in school was during our Senior Year talent show. Vinny was in a "drum-off" against fellow Scotch Plains alum Dave Heilman. Dave Heilman went on to be in some famous bands like Jupiter One, Regina Spektor, as well as others and is an amazingly accomplished drummer in his own right. Each drummer would take about 30 seconds to a minute blasting away at their best riffs and the crowd would scream loudest for who they liked more. Vinny was on fire and literally had the entire auditorium on their feet screaming and hollering at his thunderous riffs. On that day Dave Heilman just didn't stand a chance. I was in the far back beaming with pride for my old friend.
Vinny went on to lend his talents as an orchestral and theater percussionist, touring through Europe, playing Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, NJPAC, Papermill Playhouse Productions, and countless others. He is also a music teacher in the Jersey City School District. Much more of my story with Vinny will surface in upcoming blogs about myself and my brother, John Rango, and my friend and contributing bassist, Mike Manuele. But in an ironic twist Vinny and I reconnected when John got us together to jam some tunes, and we continue to do so to this day whether in a bar or festival up north, or just jamming in John's basement. In our most recent basement session I asked Vinny if he would like to record a drum track on a tune called Puddle of Me. Given that Covid knocked out pretty much every musical outlet he had, he had some time on his hands and not only played drums on that song, but 6 others as well. His eagerness actually prompted me to start making more demos, and gave rise to the idea that I actually would be making an album.
What's most amazing is Vinny's background in theater really came in handy, because his percussion supports and tells the story or the song. From thunderous tribal rhythms on Slow Burn, to amazing percussions on Just A Dream, Vinny paints the setting and makes you feel a deeper sense of connection to the song. None more meaningful and important to me than on Words In the Wind. Vinny's father passed away suddenly back when we were young, not too long after we drifted apart as friends. Unfortunately I too would go on to become a member of the "father's who died way too young" club later in my life, so I fully understood the brevity when Vinny told me he decided to record Words In The Wind on his Dad's 1950's Ludwig drum kit. As I listened to the tracks I could hear a grown man connecting to his father in those drums. These are the things I live for, and by the end my heart was filled with love and my eyes were filled with tears. I not only get the incredible talents of Vinny on this album, but the spirit of his father as well. How blessed am I!!!??
More than anything music related I am just so thankful to have rekindled such an invaluable friendship with such an amazing person, but I can't wait until things start returning to normal so we can share a stage together! I will keep updating everyone on where they can catch Vinny as theaters begin to open, hopefully sooner than later. In the meantime, give him a shoutout on Facebook!