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Half of Vital Information unites with a former chops-metal icon to produce their second masterfully hewn fusion disc. Gambale and Smith are true giants of the fusion industry, and Hamm proved long ago that he was up to more than backing hair-god guitarists like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. From the very first notes the astonishing empathy and gifts of these three men are in your face. This is a 5K run through a musical mine field, the players deftly avoiding collision as they weave their increasingly complex nets of sound.
Track 1 shows just what this trio is all about. Gambale pumps out the simple, wide-interval melody alone, then Hamm and Smith run breakneck into the room and chase him about in 10/8 time. Not content with the bassist’s usual mere supporting role, Hamm soon begins honking out a pretty double-stop countermelody behind the guitar. Smith, meanwhile, drives it all with his usual finesse as he makes the most ornate rhythms seem to flow effortlessly from his hands. At times one has to wonder just how many arms and sticks Smith has, the drums seemingly layered like a lasagna, but there’s no overdubbing here. Gambale offers lush, lovely acoustic sounds on Tracks 3 and 9 and he waxes lazily poetic on Track 5. Hamm’s fretless bass shimmers on Track 6, and he dusts funky slaps and pops throughout the album without reducing the funk to staleness. The technical spryness of this trio is, simply put, freakin’ amazing.
Track Listing: 1) Katahdin; 2) Yang; 3) First Look; 4) The Throne of Savitar; 5) Nostalgia; 6) Yin; 7) The Spirit of DunDun; 8) Lumpy
Personnel: Frank Gambale, guitars; Stuart Hamm, basses; Steve Smith, drums.