Sunday, May 10, 2015

Vital Information - 2004 "Come On In"

Steve Smith's Vital Information has evolved from being a fusion band into one that is closer to soul-jazz. He had led units under the Vital Information name for 21 years when he recorded Come On In, a tight quartet album featuring guitarist Frank Gambale (of Chick Corea's Elektric Band), keyboardist Tom Coster (who also plays accordion), and bassist Baron Browne. The music includes some grooves worthy of Joe Zawinul, straight-ahead sections, catchy themes, and plenty of funky rhythms that avoid being predictable, plus a heated up-tempo blues "A Little Something." Smith is mostly in the background, content to propel and inspire his sidemen into playing some of their finest music. This set, which crosses many musical boundaries, reveals Steve Smith's Vital Information to be one of the most underrated bands in modern jazz and serves as an excellent introduction to the group's music. 

Steve Smith - Audio Production, Composer, Drums, Primary Artist, Producer, Udu
Tom Coster Accordion, Composer, Group Member, Keyboards
Frank Gambale Composer, Group Member, Guitar
Baron Browne Bass, Bass (Electric), Composer, Group Member, Guitar (Bass)

Songs / Tracks Listing
1. Time Tunnel ( 5:38 )
2. Come On In ( 5:40 )
3. Beneath The Surface ( 2:06 )
4. Cat Walk ( 6:05 )
5. Around The World 9:35 )
6. Soho ( 6:25 )
7. A Little Something ( 8:23 )
8. From Naples To Heaven ( 4:08 )
9. Baton Rouge ( 6:18 )
10. Fine Line ( 2:18 )
11. High Wire ( 5:52 )

Total Time : 62:28

Vital Information - 1996 "Ray Of Hope"

Ray of Hope is Vital Information's seventh release, the first for Intuition Records and their first in four years. The material was actually recorded long before the release, while leader/drummer Steve Smith shopped around for a record deal. The majority of the selections have heavy commercial overtones, but the heavy grooves, nice melodies, and superb musicianship save this from being just another light fusion affair. Ever the selfless leader, Smith gives all bandmates plenty of opportunities to shine. In particular, keyboardist Tom Coster and bassist Jeff Andrews both shine on their duet of Horace Silver's "Peace." Drummers will be most pleased with the Max Roach-inspired drum solo "Maxed Out," a three-minute tour de force that proves why Smith is held in such high regard among his colleagues. While Ray of Hope may not be the most inspired recording the band has released, there is enough here to please most fans of high-energy jazz/rock fusion and/or contemporary jazz. 

 Line-up / Musicians

Steve Smith / drums
Tom Coster / keyboards
Frank Gambale / guitar
Jeff Andrews / bass

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Clouds ( 1:01 )
2. Celebrate Life ( 4:57 )
3. Rio Lize ( 4:48 )
4. Lorenzo`s Soul ( 5:32 )
5. Sacred Treasure ( 5:49 )
6. Sixth Sense ( 4:37 )
7. Ray Of Hope ( 5:41 )
8. Maxed Out ( 2:56 )
9. All My Love, Always ( 6:30 )
10.Peace ( 4:13 )
11.Fit To Be Tied ( 6:25 )
12.Over And Out ( 5:39 )

Total Time : 60;01

Vital Information - 1991 "Vitalive!"

The drummer with the very successful rock group Journey for seven years, Steve Smith left the band in 1985 to devote his career to jazz and specifically his group Vital Information. This CD is taken from their tour of August 1989 and features Smith's unit (which also includes Larry Schneider on reeds, guitarist Frank Gambale, keyboardist Tom Coster, and bassist Larry Grenadier) playing a strong set of group originals plus the standard "I Should Care" (a straight-ahead feature for Coster and the rhythm section). Although Coster uses electronics on some of the pieces, much of his date is simply high-quality acoustic jazz; even the funkier material swings. Recommended. 

 Songs / Tracks Listing

1. One Flight Up ( 6:06 )
2. Looks bad, Feels Good ( 5:39 )
3. Jave And A Nail ( 5:12 )
4. (What Lies) Beyond ( 7:09 )
5. I Should Care ( 7:29 )
6. Mac Attack ( 5:01 )
7. Johnny Cat ( 7:30 )
8. The Perfect Date ( 6:37 )
9. Island Holiday ( 7:31 )
10. Europa ( Earth Cry - Heaven`s Smile ) ( 4:37 )

Total Time : 62:51

Recorded live at Club Nova 2, Ignacio, California, August 2, 1989

Line-up / Musicians

Frank Gambale / guitar, voice on Johnny Cat
Steve Smith / drums
Tom Coster / keyboards
Larry Schneider / saxophone
Larry Grenadier / acoustic bass
Tom Coster Jr. / additional keyboards on Johnny Cat

Vital Information - 2000 Live Around The World "Where We Come From" Tour '98 - '99.

A live album not to be missed, Live Around the World is a two-disc set full of funk, fusion, fiery fretwork, and just plain fun. It's obvious these guys are having the time of their lives, working and reworking material old and new. From the zydeco funkiness of "Swamp Stomp" to the Headhunters' era funk of "The Perfect Date," this music has a groove that won't let up. When Frank Gambale goes into the melody of Led Zeppelin's classic drum feature, "Moby Dick," it's over a Steve Smith swing/funk rhythm the likes of which John Bonham could never have imagined. A 15-minute "Mr P.C." resembles the Coltrane original only in the brief head before the band takes it to places previously unknown.

The group stretches out on most of the tracks here, and the foursome uses the time to shine individually and as a group. Gambale's fleet fingers are amazing, burning up the fretboard like Dimeola, Coryell, or McLaughlin, then delivering an extended slice of tasty Wes Montgomery smoothness that ought to get radio airplay on "First Thing This Morning." Tom Coster's Hammond B-3 is also in the front seat much of the time. He occasionally recalls Larry Young back in the Tony Williams Lifetime days, reminds listeners of his own great '70s work with Santana, and does a mean Jimmy Smith on "Listen Up" and "First Thing This Morning." For a change of pace, Coster turns the Santana classic "Europa" into an accordion love song out of a Paris bistro. On "It's a Jungle out There," bassman Baron Browne captures Black Market-era Jaco, while "Over and Out" is a hard driving jam à la Return to Forever. Steve Smith brought his personal fusion crusade out of the studio to eager crowds for the tour captured in this collection. Judging by the recorded results, it was a huge musical success.


Bass – Baron Browne
Drums – Steve Smith (5)
Guitar – Frank Gambale
Keyboards – Tom Coster

Track Listings:

Disc: 1
1. Dr. Demento
2. Moby Dick
3. Swamp Stomp
4. Cranial Jam
5. Happy House
6. Fortaleza
7. First Thing This Morning
8. The Perfect Date
9. It's A Jungle Out There

Disc: 2
1. The Drum Also Waltzes
2. Take Eight
3. Listen Up!
4. Europa
5. Do You Read Me?
6. Over And Out!
7. Mr. PC
8. Soulful Drums