Steve Smith and Vital Information
Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society
Half Moon Bay, California
November 11, 2007
What do you get when you bring together the intricate and spirited beat of Steve Smith (drums and vocals) with the driving pulse of Baron Browne (bass), the virtuosity of Vinny Valentino (guitar & vocals), and the sonic blisters of Tom Coster (keyboards & accordion) playing The Bach on a November Sunday? Nothing less than a formidable juggernaut of a band called Steve Smith and Vital Information. Felix Contreras of JazzTimes writes, "Vital Information is one of ... music's best-kept secrets. The tunes are adventurous and they always groove. The musicians shoot for, and achieve, real emotion rather than soulless fireworks." The group on this occasion substantiated the claim. Their unique arrangements brought fresh power to the stage, and their tunes ranged from ballads to hard-hitting rock-jazz. It was commonplace to hear comments like "Wow, that band was tight!
But Steve Smith and Vital Information were beyond tight, playing with the precision of a scalpel. It was clear from their playful expressions, spontaneous movements, and level of improvisational interplay that they love playing with each another, especially in concert. Their repertory extended to Eastern Indian time signatures along with konakkol passages (patterned vocalizations) mixed with tinges of innovative, "psychedelic" riffs from Vinny's guitar. As an introduction to the unfamiliar patterns the band freely employs, Tom Coster led the audience in rhythmic clapping to the seven and a half time of a fifteen beat cycle, then proceeded to impress the audience with his mastery of the accordion.
Rare, especially for the sophisticated Bach audience, were the standing ovations the band received at the end of both sets. They reciprocated with an encore to the vociferously appreciative, packed housea stirring blues/jazz tune dedicated to Pete Douglas and The Bach. As the band departed the stage, several in the audience shouted, "Please come back. Douglas was heard to say, "This was our best performance!
A review of the occasion would be incomplete without some background, courtesy of Linda Goetz, on the Bach: "This year Pete Douglas is celebrating 50 years on Miramar Beach. It was 50 years ago that Pete arrived at [here] and bought a run-down beer joint which is the existing cottage in front. Almost immediately musicians and other bohemians were attracted to his beat scene. Now in 2007, we still come to the Bach to enjoy some of the finest jazz on the planetand all because of Pete's early love of music and Miramar Beach. Even apart from the excellent music, this unique venue clearly deserves our support.