Come On In
is the eleventh release by veteran drummer Steve Smith's Vital Information, and the third consecutive to feature the line-up of Smith, guitarist Frank Gambale, keyboardist Tom Coster and bassist Baron Browne. This unit can still safely be described as a fusion group, but their dedication to roots music and funk helps keep them from sounding sterile or overwrought. Gambale's playing is particularly revelatory here; whereas he sometimes sounds a bit bound by his prodigious technique on other recordings, he sticks mostly to a blues bag here with consistently charming and exciting results.
Former Santana keyboardist Tom Coster shows tremendous range on this release, playing funky Hammond B-3 on "Cat Walk" and the Meters-inspired "Around the World" and an accordion that sounds Neapolitan on "From Naples to Heaven" and Cajun on "Baton Rogue." Smith plays a full kit on most tracks while effectively using the African Udu drum on others including "Beneath the Surface," an East meets West jam that recalls mid-'90's Material and early '70's Miles. Baron Browne's slap bass holds it all together.
Most of the album's ten songs favor groove over virtuosity. Even "High Wire," the album's closing tune and most blistering workout, alternates between an intricate riff led by Gambale and bouncier ensemble passages. Come On In
should appeal equally to both fusion fans and to followers of jam bands.