Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

213

Steve Smith and Vital Information: Come On In

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
The benefit of a long-standing musical relationship is impossible to quantify, but needless to say there is a certain comfort level, a certain simpatico that results from playing together for the long term. Drummer Steve Smith's current incarnation of Vital Information, featuring guitarist Frank Gambale, keyboardist Tom Coster and bassist Baron Browne, has been together for over six years now, and a certain bravado and nervous energy more evident in their early live release, Live Around the World , was replaced by a deeper maturity on their last recording, '02's Show 'Em Where You Live . Now with their latest release, Come On In , the story continues, with an album that is arguably their most relaxed effort yet.

That's not to say there isn't plenty of energy on Come On In , but the band is clearly moving towards the jazz side of the fusion equation. Gambale's "A Little Something" swings along with Smith contributing some fine brushwork. And with the exception of the set closer, the high-octane Coster/Gambale collaboration "High Wire," Gambale's tone is clean and warm, resembling Pat Martino more than Allan Holdsworth, especially on tracks like the opening "Time Tunnel" and "Cat Walk," which harkens a bit back to Martino's days with his Joyous Lake band.

But while the band is leaning towards cleaner, crisper behaviour, there are plenty of chops to keep fusion fans happy. "Around the World," which tosses in a bar of 6/4 after three bars of 4/4 in order to keep things just the slightest bit unbalanced, is a New Orleans-flavoured funk tune where Browne and Smith demonstrate their unfailing ability to establish and build groove. Coster, as always the consummate accompanist, delivers a greasy organ solo that leads into a trade-off with Gambale where, each time around, they up the ante, building the excitement in what must surely be a high point of their live performances.

And while Smith's name is at the front of the Vital Information imprint, this is clearly a cooperative band where not only does everyone get the opportunity to contribute compositions, but more and more of the writing comes from collaborative efforts. In fact, only four of the eleven compositions are single composer pieces. From tunes that are unquestionably improvisations based around a simple premise, like "Beneath the Surface" and "Fine Line," which find Smith on udu, Coster on accordion and Gambale on acoustic guitar, to more arranged collective tunes like "Baton Rouge," which blends an African highlife acoustic guitar with Louisiana accordion theme, the group asserts a personality that, regardless of style, is clear and recognizable.

Come On In demonstrates the maturity that develops from a group of seasoned players who have been playing long enough to no longer have anything to prove. As much as the formidable skills of each musician are clear, Vital Information is becoming less and less about pure chops and more and more about establishing an identity.

Visit Vital Information on the web.


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


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Formidable CD/LP/Track Review Formidable
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Cochonnerie CD/LP/Track Review Cochonnerie
by John Sharpe
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Threes CD/LP/Track Review Threes
by Glenn Astarita
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Smoke CD/LP/Track Review Smoke
by Joe Gatto
Published: November 24, 2017
Read Acknowledgement CD/LP/Track Review Acknowledgement
by Don Phipps
Published: November 23, 2017
Read Lessons And Fairytales CD/LP/Track Review Lessons And Fairytales
by Jerome Wilson
Published: November 23, 2017
Read "Agrima" CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Jerome Wilson
Published: October 21, 2017
Read "En Corps Generation" CD/LP/Track Review En Corps Generation
by John Sharpe
Published: August 1, 2017
Read "Nomad" CD/LP/Track Review Nomad
by Nick Davies
Published: April 18, 2017
Read "Pathways" CD/LP/Track Review Pathways
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read "As If By Magic" CD/LP/Track Review As If By Magic
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: December 3, 2016
Read "Jorg Schippa's Kiosk" CD/LP/Track Review Jorg Schippa's Kiosk
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 24, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Please support out sponsor