Steve Smith & Vital Information

Live! One Great Night

  • AllMusic Rating
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Released in 2012 to coincide with leader/drummer Steve Smith's group's 30th anniversary but recorded nearly five years earlier at a single November 2007 gig, the CD/DVD finds this version of the Vital Information quartet locked and loaded. The band was touring behind its Vitalization release, so six of the nine (ten on the DVD) tracks from this set are live extended versions of songs from that album. This is the quintessential jazz fusion outfit; the emphasis is on jazz but with plugged-in rock/funk touches that add volume and intensity to world-class playing. Keyboardist Tom Coster (ex-Santana) has been a member since 1986 and remains so in 2012, making him the most veteran Vital Information player. Bassist Baron Browne has been aboard from 1998, with guitarist Vinny Valentino, who joined in 2006 (one year before this recording), as the relative newcomer. Regardless, they play like the journeyman foursome they are with Smith taking shorter, potent drum solos within the songs, as he does on the double-time "Seven and a Half," rather than extended ones that tend to get boring unless the listener is a drummer or drum enthusiast. Even though percussion plays a large part in Vital Information's sound, it's incorporated rather seamlessly into fusion material that features all the players. Only the under two-minute "Khanda West" track is an unaccompanied drum solo but that leads into the funky rhythms of "The Trouble With," the disc's most groove-worthy tune. Guitarist Valentino and Smith both love their scatting over solos shtick with Smith speaking the jittery konnakol language of vocal percussion from South India on two songs that sound like an alien hopped up on excess caffeine.. Those are fun in small doses yet may extend too long for some tastes. The outfit is just as proficient playing straight-ahead jazz in "The Closer" and trading licks at lightning speed but adding the plugged-in aspects of rock. If anyone didn't think this was totally live with no overdubs, the DVD (recorded in grainy black and white and with stereo audio not mixed into Surround) proves otherwise. Not as rock-oriented as drummer Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats, Smith's Vital Information is more subtle but burns it up live. This typical club gig is a potent example of how talented, tight, and connected they are.

blue highlight denotes track pick