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Steve Smith and Vital Information: Come On In

Jim Santella By

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Eleven original compositions give Vital Information's jazz/rock session plenty of room to ooze. This is their 11th album. By now, they've come to an agreement on what kind of a sound they want. A light Hammond organ, searing electric guitar and thumping electric bass are driven by a heavy rock beat; the band surges with colors that swirl up and down. Their performance is all about technique. Frank Gambale displays his mighty chops, often in unison with a partner. Bass and drums keep things under control, making sure that their overlapping beats leave space for melody. Tom Coster colors with smooth harmony throughout, leaving much of the session tied to smooth jazz.

Gambale's "A Little Something" gives the listener plenty of space. Mellow and succinct, the piece ties pleasant moods together with wallpaper surroundings. His "From Naples to Heaven" introduces the accordion. Slow and melodic, the piece earns a rustic atmosphere in a laid-back setting. With brushes, Steve Smith wraps its aura gently around the fencepost. The band makes this one fit those lazy, hazy days of summer.

"Baton Rouge" employs accordion as well. With this display, however, Vital Information gives us a taste of Cajun hospitality. "Around the World" also delivers a Deep South souvenir, with its New Orleans shuffle beat and head-bobbing funk groove. The band's "Fine Line" carries an exotic message: fusion has drawn elements from cultures around the world. Smith's udu drum and Coster's accordion ensure that we're able to recognize the various scents.

Ending their performance with a fast-charging "High Wire," the band reminds us of its roots and of how much of an impression jazz fusion made when it first came out in the 1970s.

Track Listing: Time Tunnel; Come On In; Beneath the Surface; Cat Walk; Around the World; Soho; A LIttle Something; From Naples to Heaven; Baton Rouge; Fine Line; High Wire

Personnel: Steve Smith (drums, udu), Frank Gambale (guitar), Tom Coster (keyboards, accordion), Baron Browne (bass)

Title: Come On In | Year Released: 2004 | Record Label: Tone Center


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