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Steve Smith and Vital Information NYC Edition: Viewpoint

Dan Bilawsky By

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Drummer Steve Smith has a knack for separating his musical interests and satisfying his varied musical appetites through the use of different bands. But with Viewpoint, he works the inverse angle: Smith's passions and groups converge here, as his respect for the history of jazz, infatuation with sleek modernism, and love of Buddy Rich all inform the music.

Consolidation is the guiding principal here, as signaled by the choice of repertoire and the commingling of musicians from Vital Information, Buddy's Buddies, and Jazz Legacy. The band that emerges—a quintet dubbed Vital Information NYC Edition—is a highly capable group that expertly walks the respectfulness-originality line in its work. "Oleo," for example, succeeds because it swings and singes; "Bemsha Swing"—more funky than Monk-y here—is a groove workout with some teeth; and "Chan's Song (Never Said)" is given a glossy coat of paint that gives rise to new thoughts without covering up the natural beauty of the song. All three demonstrate that Vital Information NYC Edition is loyal to a point, but not to a fault.

Those hoping to witness some virtuosic drum displays won't be disappointed, as Smith delivers the goods at the outset of "Time Check," tears it up during "The Bottom Line," and uses the last of his three standalone solo miniatures—"A Final Viewpoint"—to show what he's made of. But it's the good-natured spirit of the group rather than the strength and technical breadth of solos that carries this album. That's obvious whether the band is working its way through a boogaloo like "The Blackhawk" or tackling an oft-covered favorite like "Take Five." Smith has logged plenty of miles with these men—bassist Baron Browne, pianist Mark Soskin, saxophonist Andy Fusco, and guitarist Vinny Valentino—and it shows. They bring out the best in the drummer and he kindly reciprocates.

Track Listing: Bemsha Swing; Time Check; The Brush Off; Willowcrest; Viewpoint One; Take Five; Viewpoint Two; Chan's Song (Never Said); Oleo; A Final Viewpoint; The Blackhawk; The Bottom Line.

Personnel: Steve Smith: drums; Mark Soskin: piano, Fender Rhodes; Baron Browne: bass; Andy Fusco: alto saxophone; Vinny Valentino: guitar; Walt Weiskopf: tenor saxophone (2, 4).

Title: Viewpoint | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: BFM Jazz


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