Steve Smith - Vitalization CD

Vitalization contains 12 original compositions (composed by the members of Vital Information) define an emerging, borderless, “World Fusion” musical style that ranges from up-tempo blues, straight-ahead jazz and ballads to South Indian-influenced and odd-time grooves, funk and contemporary jazz-rock. The CD also features guest percussionists Pete Lockett (England), Gilad (Israel) and Juan Carlos Melián (Spain), who add a variety of authentic, ethnic percussion sounds and flavors to the tracks.

Following his extensive tour and studio work with leading jazz, pop and rock musicians— not to mention his election to the Modern Drummer Hall Of Fame and multiple best all-around drummer awards— this latest recording represents a culmination of Smith’s influences and his growth as a musician while also demonstrating that the drummers’ drummer’s craft remains a work in progress and his appetite for taking on new challenges remains insatiable.


1. Interwoven Rhythms - Synchronous
2. Get Serious
3. The Trouble With
4. The Bottom Line
5. Seven and a Half
6. Interwoven Rhythms - Dialogue
7. J Ben Jazz
8. Groove Time
9. You Know What I Mean
10. The Closer
11. Jimmy Jive
12. Positano

Steve Smith - drums, konnakol • Tom Coster - keyboards, accordion • Baron Browne - bass • Vinny Valentino - guitar • Bill Evans - tenor sax, soprano sax (tracks 3, 4, 8, 9) • Pete Lockett - tabla, kanjira, percussion, konnakol (tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 9, 12) • Gilad - congas, percussion (tracks 2, 7-9) • Juan Carlos Melián - congas, percussion (tracks 2, 8, 9)

REVIEW 4cups

If there ever was a reason to catagorize an album as world-fusion it most certainly would be this twelfth recording by Steve Smith and Vital Information, Vitalization . One of the biggest luxuaries and joys that I find with the jazz-fusion genre is that it allows for just about anything to be used and incorporated in the music. With Vitalization, I found find a nice marriage of jazz, rock and world rhythms as well as instrumentation used throughout. Each track has it's own beauty and stands on it's own. With Vitalization, the fusion of rhythm, odd meter/phrasing, harmonic structure and instrumentation never comes across like a gimic or sounding mechanical ... but rather a musical expression at its very finest.

For the past five years Steve Smith has been studying and playing South Indian drumming, which may explain why there's so much hand percussion as well as a International vibe to the entire album. Whatever the reason is ... keep it up Steve!

The opening tune entitled "Interwoven Rhythms - Synchronous" as well as track six, "Interwoven Rhythms - Dialogue", both incorporate a South Indian style of vocal percussion music called konnakol. Here Steve Smith and Pete Lockett do a fantastic job of ripping up some heavy, unison lines ... leaving you wanting to join in! What I especially found enjoyable was the fact that the North Indian tabla were used in junction with the South Indian konnakol. A pedantic purist of Indian music would probably have insisted that the mridangam be used, as opposed to tabla, when performing konnakol, but that was not the case here; I love it!

One of the heavier tunes is "Seven and a Half" which is based on a tribal sounding drum rhythm Steve came up with. It's in 15/8 (known in South India as 7-1/2), and features Pete Lockett on kanjira playing in perfect unison with Steve on the drums. Wow!

Gilad shines on his tracks, especially the opening and closing sections of "J Ben Jazz" where he plays some very inspiring congas solos.

Steve Smith never overplays and always seems to have the right part and feel for each tune. It's difficult for me to isolate particular tracks because each one is great. Steve's greasy shuffle feel on "Jimmy Jive" is spot on, and with "Groove Time" (which is the same tune as "Jimmy Jive" but with a different feel) he's laying down a heavy D.C. 'Go-Go' groove; that's what I'm talkin' bout. Even when Steve is stretching out, whether it's a full on solo or vamp section (like in "The Closer"), he never forgets the tune and what the music is trying to say.

Drummers and percussionists alike are going to enjoy Vitalization with all of its tight unison ensemble figures, odd phrasings, rhythmic displacements, metric modulations and deep grooves. I highly recommend this CD.