steve smith and vital information nyc edition - viewpoint

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Steve Smith’s Vital Information NYC Edition—the newest iteration of one of the most durable and intoxicating outfits in jazz—is “the best of all worlds,” says the world-class drummer, and he’s not tossing off groundless hyperbole. Smith—who has been inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame and was just named Fusion Drummer of the Year by the magazine— is an astute and prescient bandleader who has piloted several lineups of Vital Information since the early ’80s, as well as leading the highly touted combos Buddy’s Buddies (a Buddy Rich tribute outfit) and Jazz Legacy, which the former evolved into. Now, on Viewpoint (BFM Jazz, May 26, 2015), all of the virtuosity and vision Smith has corralled and exhibited himself for decades is concentrated in one outstanding quintet: Steve Smith’s Vital Information NYC Edition.

Featuring Mark Soskin (Sonny Rollins/Herbie Mann) on keyboards, Andy Fusco (Buddy Rich/Mel Lewis) on alto sax, Vinny Valentino (Jimmy McGriff/Bill Evans) on guitar and Baron Browne (Jean-Luc Ponty/Billy Cobham) on bass—and, of course, Smith (who first came to mass attention during his nine-year stint with the classic rock band Journey) playing drums—Steve Smith’s Vital Information NYC Edition marks both a culmination and a bold new beginning. “With my band members all living and working in the New York City area, where I’ve also lived since 2007 because it’s a musically rich and inspiring environment,” says Smith, “this group can be organized on a moment’s notice. Steve Smith’s Vital Information NYC Edition is a lot of fun to play with and is a high-energy, creative jazz unit. By combining all of these New York players into one group I now have the option to play the music of all three groups. We find this quite interesting and exciting and have a wonderful time playing the music.”

Those who prefer their music easily pigeonholed, devoid of surprises and coasting along listlessly will want to stay far away from Viewpoint. On the other hand, if you’re pumped by music that brims with spontaneity and spark, teases with mood shifts and sonic jolts, and switches up the tempo and melodic direction so seamlessly you don’t even realize they just did what they did until they’ve already done it, you’re going to love Viewpoint. From deeply funky to seriously slamming to smoothly swinging, Viewpoint is the most magnetic and vital music yet from the band that All Music Guide has called “a well-oiled machine that comes through loud and clear.”

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