Vital Information – “Vitalization”
Steve Smith – drums
Tom Coster – keyboards
Baron Browne – bass
Vinny Valentino – guitar
Bill Evans – sax
Pete Lockett – percussion & Konnakol
Gilad – percussion
Juan Carlos Melián – percussion
Interwoven Rhytms – Synchronous
The Trouble With
The Bottom Line
Seven and a Half
Interwoven Rhythms – Dialogue
J Ben Jazz
You Know What I Mean
Jimmy Jive (For Jimmy Smith)
The music on the new Steve Smith and Vital Information “Vitalization” Cd is best described by the title itself. The latest outing by the venerable Vital Information institution established in 1983, serves notice that Fusion/Electric Jazz is still the most creative and potent force in the evolution of the Jazz genre. While Jazz traditionalists dismiss anything remotely associated with the “F” word, the rest of the world rightfully embraces the notion that plugging in and turning it up is good medicine for the soul.
Vitalization is the first Vital Information Cd on the Hudson Music label. I would have to say the change is a good one. The Hudson Music production and the sound quality of the music, rate near the top of the Cd format standard capabilities. This is certainly one recording that I would love to hear in the HD format (SACD, DVD-Audio).
This recording is also the debut of guitarist Vinny Valentino with Vital Information. Again, the change seems to be a good one. Vinny brings new life to the sound of the band. Playing a hollow body Yamaha AEX 1500 Electric Guitar through an Axon Ax 100 guitar synthesizer, Vinny demonstrates a variety of great sounds. While Vinny sites George Benson as an influence, there is a lot more to his sound and to my ears, he sounds like a combination of Grant Green and John McLaughlin – not bad!
These changes are just the beginning of the many things to appreciate on this recording. The addition of Bill Evans on Sax brings the funk songs to their full potential. Bill is one of Jazz’s most under-rated sax players and I’ve found his playing to be consistently spectacular since his debut with the Miles Davis “come back” band featuring Mike Stern and Marcus Miller in 1981. There is also some fantastic percussion work by Pete Lockett, Gilad, and Juan Carlos Melián.
The most noticeable of the new sounds on this incredible recording are the two entries featuring Konnakol (South Indian Vocal Percussion) by Steve Smith and Pete Lockett. I found the songs fit the Electric Jazz project exceptionally well. It probably helps that they are both very good at it. For Fusion fans that enjoy odd time signatures, I found one song in 15 during my first listen and not surprisingly learned it was called 7 and a Half.
While I refer to the project as Fusion and Electric Jazz, the compositions vary widely from South Indian Konnakol, Funk, and straight ahead Jazz, to Fusion intensity and they all demonstrate exceptional improvisational and technical skills by everyone. Another strong plus factor for Fusion fans is there is only one ballad and it’s smartly placed at the end of the disc (not a Fusion first, but it’s always appreciated).
One thing that has always been present in the Vital Information recordings is what I call the “accessibility factor”. It’s doubtful that any musical enterprise would last 24 years without some attention paid to fans that appreciate a less self-indulgent and more “easy on the ears” style. Consequently some Fusion fans have found past projects a little too tame. Steve and company have a solid home run with Vitalization. Everyone can enjoy this at any level of appreciation. For those that listen to the “songs”, they will enjoy some great music, while those that listen “note for note” will appreciate the incredible performances and energetic pace of the project.
Overall I would have to give this recording a solid 5-Star rating and strongly recommend it to anyone that enjoys the creative musical style called Fusion and anyone that appreciates a great Jazz recording.