Steve Smith and Vital Information have been on the fusion scene now for over 20 years, serving up a different and diverse flavor of their creativity with each project. The group’s founder and drummer, Steve Smith, has worked with everyone from the Buddy Rich band to Journey. He’s won Modern Drummer magazine's #1 All Around Drummer award five years in a row and was voted one of the Top 25 Drummers of All Time in a recent Modern Drummer readers poll (pretty hefty accolades!). In 2002, he was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.
None of this is to diminish in any way the talent with which Smith surrounds himself, mind you. I’m sure he’ll be the first to acknowledge the guys to whom he owes much. Multi-talented bassist Baron Browne (who’s worked with Jean Luc Ponty, Tom Jones, Billy Cobham, and Steps Ahead), masterful keyboardist Tom Coster (of Santana fame), and Benson-influenced guitarist Vinny Valentino, not to mention special guest sax great Bill Evans, all place an indelible shine on this group and this project.
This latest project has all of the markings of a fusion hit: color, fluidity, perception, and intensity. The group adeptly handles fusion, straight-ahead, funk, blues, challenging time signatures, and crafty voicings in a delightfully palatable manner. There’s a little something here for most jazzers. The smooth yet funky bass of Browne, the snazzy sax of Bill Evans, the authoritative and thunderous drums of Smith, the classic Hammond sound of Coster, and the diversity of a band in command of its message. The tonal direction goes from strictly thick fusion pieces, like "Get Serious," to mostly straight-ahead cuts like Valentino’s "The Bottom Line," which also offers a bluesy undertone, and "Jimmy Jive," which sports that funky Jimmy Smith sound (it’s actually a tribute to the colorful organist) to tribal-influenced, odd-timed selections like "Seven and a Half" (an interesting story goes with this one).
In a nutshell, with Vitalization, Smith and Vital Information manage to keep alive the flow of innovative consistency, as well as the sheer magic of the group.