Saturday, March 24, 2018

Vital Information - 1998 "Where We Come From"

Modern electric jazz and the funky soul of the '60s fuse into a rollicking trip down memory lane on WHERE WE COME FROM. Vital Information, the long- lived pet project of leader and world-renown drummer Steve Smith, make a distinctive change from their usual format of hard-edged fusion on this, their eighth album. The emphasis here is on the soulful instrumental grooves of their youth, the music that originally enticed these world-class musicians to take up their instruments in the first place.

From the influence of Jimmy Smith, the Meters and Tony Williams' Lifetime, Smith and company serve up a spicy gumbo of groovy tunes and have a grand old time in the process. The unrestrained casualness of this disc is contagious as Smith jauntily drives his bandmates through the slippery funk of "Dr. Demento" and the James Brown-ish "Listen Up." The spirit of the bayou is evoked on the zydeco grooves of "Swamp Stomp" and "Sitting Ducks." The jazz element has never been lost, though, as a swinging version of Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick," the Brubeck-influenced "Take Eight," and Ornette Coleman's "Happy House" clearly illustrate. Finally, even the Ventures' effect is felt in the classic surf music styling of "008."

Vital Information's Where We Come. This one offers 77 minutes of intense rhythmic fusion that's loosely influenced by the Meters and Booker T and the MGs.

Vital Information has gradually shed its jazz-lite tendencies to become a first-rate fusion ensemble. Drummer Steve Smith is the only original member in what is now a four-man all-star group. The current lineup was last heard from in 1996 on the catchy but substantial Ray of Hope.

Where We Come From showcases four talented musicians who have enough confidence in their collective abilities to attempt a more low-tech approach. This release has Smith on drums, former Santana keyboardist Tom Coster playing B-3 organ, Fender Rhodes and accordion, Jeff Andrews on bass, and Australian Frank Gambale on guitars.

Drummer Smith has been one busy dude of late. In addition to his usual session work in pop, rock and country circles, he recently teamed with Victor Wooten and Scott Henderson to form the jazz-metal trio Vital Tech Tones, and then with Larry Coryell and Tom Coster on the incendiary fusion release Cause and Effect, also reviewed on this page. All three of Smith's 1998 CDs are outstanding, but Where We Come From gets the nod as my favorite.

Gambale is particularly impressive here, whether playing fuzzy-toned phrases on the funked-up "Dr. Demento," fast-paced blues on a swinging version of Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick," George Benson-style jazz on "First Thing This Morning," or Duke Levine-ish rock on "Bob." Gambale lends Vital Information a more pop-oriented sound than most fusion ensembles, but his accessible style enhances rather than detracts. He's an extremely versatile guitarist.

Coster's organ helps drive many of these cuts. The former Santana keyboardist plays both organ and accordian on the Cajun-spiced "Swamp Stomp," but most interesting is his inside-out accordian work on Ornette Coleman's "Happy House." Like Steve Smith's post-Journey work, Coster's playing has progressed from happy-jazz to fiery fusion in the years since he left Santana.
He and Gambale have never sounded better, and Smith and Andrews hold up the bottom end with enthusiasm and skill.

This CD is a great mixture of many styles. You can find jazz,fusion,funk and even tango on this CD. I strongly recommend this CD to anyone who likes great music. Also, if you like old sounds, like Hammond B3, buy it, you'll love it. Where We Come From is a must-have for any fan of funky fusion.

Track listing:

01. Dr. Demento ( 3:10 )
02. Moby Dick ( 8:20 )
03. Craniac Trilogy Part 1: Transport ( 00:53 )
04. Listen Up ( 4:53 )
05. Craniac Trilogy Part 2: The Extraction ( 1:16 )
06. First Thing This Morning ( 5:12 )
07. Take Eight ( 6:10 )
08. Craniac Trilogy Part 3: The Implant ( 2:17 )
09. Bob ( 3:59 )
10. Cranial Joy: Completion
11. Happy House ( 2:30 )
12. Cranial Meltdown: Dementia ( 1:28 )
13. Blowfish Blues ( 5:40 )
14. Sitting Ducks ( 5:20 )
15. Once In A Lifetime ( 10:43 )
16. 008 ( 7:11 )

Total Time : 76:02


Frank Gambale / guitar
Tom Coster / Hammond B3 Organ, Fender Rhodes, accordion
Jeff Anderews / electric & acoustic bass
Steve Smith / drums