Founded by all-world drummer, Steve Smith back in the 80’s, “Vital Information” celebrates its tenth recording with a slightly organic vibe as these superb musicians delve into a variety of formats. The keyword here is groove, as these stylists (and frequent poll winners) align their wares for a group sound that has become easily identifiable! A deceptively complex yet thoroughly entertaining affair, Smith sets the pace via his polyrhythmic outbreak on the opener, “Cranial #1 (an ongoing series of spontaneous improvisations).” However, the band subsequently ventures into the stratosphere with streamlined exactitude during the hotly swinging number titled, “Mr. T.C.” Conversely, Smith opts for a scaled down jazz kit, while perennial guitar hero; Frank Gambale employs a hollow-body electric. On “Shagadelic Boogaloo,” the quartet engages in a 70’s Pop-Soul type setting, along with a few inadvertent nods to the “Chitlin Circuit.” Keyboardist, Tom Coster picks up the accordion for the New Orleans style shuffle motif titled “Our Man In Louisiana.” With this piece, you can almost visualize a hot and humid summer day, way down yonder in Nawlins’ complete with the aroma of spiced up crawfish permeating the streets of the “French Quartet.”
Gambale’s now infamous, sweeping chord progressions and Coster’s fluent B-3 lines ride above Smith and bassist, Baron Browne’s steaming, turbocharged swing vamps, on “Sideways Blues.” The ensemble’s multifaceted voyage continues throughout the intermittent “Cranial,” sequences where they propagate smatterings of EFX, atop pulsating cadenzas. No doubt, you’ll get your moneys worth here! **Recommended**
Track Listing: 1.Cranial #1 Right Now 2.Mr. T.C. 3.Shagedlic Boogaloo 4.Cranial # 2 The Jinx 5.Soul Principle 6.Our Man In Louisiana 7.Cat and Mouse 8.Cranial # 3 Azul 9.Sideways Blues 10.the Blackhawk 11.Cranial # 4 Where We Live 12.The Fire Still Burns (for Jimi) 13.Cranial # 5 Awaken The hoodoo 14.Cranial # 6 Mata Hari 15.Gingerbread Boy 16.Cranial # 7 Brake Failure
Personnel: Tom Coster: Hammond B-3, Fender Rhodes, Korg Trinity and accordion
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.