Vital Information: Vitalive! (Drum Legacy Records)

The Best of Steve Smith: The Tone Center Collection (Tone Center)

The Best of GHS (Frank Gambale, Stu Hamm and Steve Smith)(Tone Center)

Steve Smith

By Martin Kasdan Jr.

Drummer Steve Smith's Vital Information blew away an audience back in April 2007, with its righteous fusion. An earlier version of the band, consisting of Tom Coster (ex-Santana, keys), Larry Schneider (sax), Frank Gambale (guitar), Larry Grenadier (electric bass), was recorded on tour during August 1989, for the recently reissued Vitalive!.

Smith's liner notes state that "this was the most ‘jazz' version of Vital Information to date." The offerings range from the rather restrained opener, "One Flight Up" to the classic fusion sound of "Jave and a Nail" to a highly enjoyable straight-ahead rendition of the standard "I Should Care." There is less shredding here than one might expect.

The Best of Steve Smith provides an overview of Smith's eclectic recordings, ranging from both fusion and post-bop with Larry Coryell to hard bop (Horace Silver's "Nutville" and Sam Nestico's "Ya Gotta Try") with his Buddy Rich tribute ensemble, Buddy's Buddies. The only downside is that the two tracks here from GHS repeat those on the GHS collection.

The Best of GHS This was a pleasant surprise for me. While I have always appreciated the abilities of guitarist Frank Gambale, I often found his work with Chick Corea's Elektric Band and Vital Information to be too homogenized. Apparently, he can tear it up with the best of them, though, and I belatedly realized this when I listened to his work with GHS.

This is the most "old school fusion" of this trio of recordings.

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