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Jazz Rock/Fusion • United States

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Vital Information biography
"Aligning the laws of physics and not breaking the laws of nature" - Steve Smith

An amalgam of numerous musical styles, Vital Information has perpetually evolved by provenance of the virtuosic faculties of it`s individual members and holds the distinction of being one of the most enduring fusion/jazz ensembles currently recording and touring as a regular unit. Ignited as a side project in 1983 by master drummer Steve Smith who was playing with arena rock band Journey at the time, Vital Information would include a calvacade of in-demand session and jazz musicians both as regular members and guest players over the course of the next quarter century. The current lineup of Steve Smith on drums, long serving keyboardist Tom Coster, veteran bassist Baron Browne and newcomer, critically acclaimed Vinny Valentino on guitar, play a sizzling brand of jazz/rock which nods back to bygone eras affected with forward-looking avidity. Rooted in such diversities as American jazz from the 20s, big band imprints, bop tendancies and world beat pulsations, combined with the ire of rock music Vital Information have constantly pushed the boundaries of modern music.

The calibre of individual talents that have been involved with the group over the years form an uncanny exponential aggregate of their separate parts and have been actively involved with their own side projects during their various tenures. Steve Smith himself, who has been playing drums since childhood, studied at the Berklee School Of Music in the seventies and has played everything from avant-jazz to pop music, recording with literally hundreds of artists and has won Modern Drummer magazine`s #1 best all round drummer award 5 times in a row . Past Vital Information alumni have included renowned fusion guitarist Mike Stern, session bassist Tim Landers ( BB King, Stevie Nicks & The Crimson Jazz Trio ), reedman Dave Wilczewski, who went on to become a prominent European session man and Australian guitarist Frank Gambale ( Chick Corea, Jean Luc Ponty ) who is noted for his unique sweep picking guitar technique who, in addition to playing on 7 Vital Information albums, has also released over a dozen solo albums and is also actively involved in music education. More recently, celebrated saxman Bill Evans who has played with such notables as Miles Davis, John McLaughlin and Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull added his voice to Vital Information`s grooves on the 2007 album "Vitalization".

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VITAL INFORMATION top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.72 | 8 ratings
Vital Information
3.50 | 4 ratings
3.85 | 4 ratings
Global Beat
3.50 | 4 ratings
Fiafiaga ( Celebration )
3.50 | 4 ratings
Easier Done Than Said
2.32 | 6 ratings
Ray Of Hope
3.40 | 5 ratings
Where We Come From
3.33 | 3 ratings
Show `Em Where You Live
3.75 | 8 ratings
Come On In
3.20 | 5 ratings

VITAL INFORMATION Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 4 ratings
Vitalive !
3.50 | 4 ratings
Live Around The World : Where We Come From Tour 1998-1999

VITAL INFORMATION Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

VITAL INFORMATION Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

VITAL INFORMATION Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Vital Information by VITAL INFORMATION album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.72 | 8 ratings

Vital Information
Vital Information Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Steve Smith was the drummer in the hugely popular JOURNEY at the time when he was given permission to record a solo album. His love was Jazz/Fusion and back in 1983 he put together this band of two guitarists in Mike Stern and Dean Brown, plus bass player Tim Landers, and a tenor sax player named Dave Wilczewski, and the only one I am familiar with is Mike Stern. I was really looking forward to this until I heard the sax, I just don't like it, the style or tone. I like that he brought in two guitarists though because they have very different styles so you know when they are both playing in the same passage of music.

The opener has this funky rhythm section and they don't really go into this style after this song but this rhythm continues throughout the opener. I like the guitar expressions but not the sax as they trade off. Nice bass before 3 minutes on "Questionable Arrivals" along with the guitar expressions. Dual guitars on this one. Some walking bass on "V.G." and the sound is fairly sparse until later. Favourite by far though is "All That Is" even if it starts with laid back sax and atmosphere. I like when the tempo speeds up as drums and bass join in. First time Smith works up a sweat. Sax joins in too until replaced by the guitar before 5 minutes. Love the guitar 5 1/2 minutes in as it soars. Best section on the album from 5 minutes in to the end. Smith plays piano on the beginning of the closer.

A little disappointed for sure.

 Ray Of Hope by VITAL INFORMATION album cover Studio Album, 1996
2.32 | 6 ratings

Ray Of Hope
Vital Information Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Sean Trane
Special Collaborator Prog Folk

2 stars Vital Information is an 80's group with its roots in the 70's, with Journey's Steve Smith and Santana's Tom Coster, it also features guitarist Frank Gambale, but by the time of the release of Ray Of Hope (in 96), Baron Brown had been replaced with Jeff Andrews. So this relatively stable unit produced a line of fusion albums, in the typical over-polished 80's mode, one that induces sleep, as opposite to the previous decade's fire-setting jazz-rock. Obviously their instrumental fusion had a slice LA sound ala Steely Dan, combining some funk influence (mainly Andrews' bass), jazzy guitars from Gambale, but it also features the typically stinky 80's studio technology traits and technologies, down to an irritating drum sound.

As usual with VI, a good deal of the compositions is collegial, but there are also a bunch of solo compositions, mainly in the second half of the album, but also Narada Walden participating to Sacred Treasure. Despite the four member's proficiency and virtuosity at their respective instruments, they go at great lengths not to appear "showing off" or strutting it hard (outside Smith's tribute to Max Roach), but the tame (and even lame) soundscapes appear quite calculated, which does no favour to RoF. It's been ages since I heard early VI albums, but I think I prefer the "freshness" (everything being relative) and excitement (again relative) to the conventional fuzak of the present album. Actually an album's title has rarely be been more ill-fitting than here. Don't get me wrong, I'd still prefer to listen to Clouds or Maxed Out than to any of the crap on the commercial radios?. But to suffer an hour-long of fuzak is beyond me. Even the Horace Silver cover of Peace can not bring me out of my torpor.

Sometimes one has to wonder just why such albums were still made by the mid-90's, outside financial considerations (and even then, who actually bought such heard- elsewhere albums) and studio-time pre-occupations, because this the type of easy- listening fusion that brings absolutely nothing new to the genre, and it's quite difficult to sit through such a long series of flawlessly played but unexciting succession of tracks. Your call, but it can't be worse than a Yellowjackets album, but should you want to investigate VI, go for for a Live album, where you'll be more susceptible of staying awake, because of the "live" power and energy.

 Global Beat  by VITAL INFORMATION album cover Studio Album, 1986
3.85 | 4 ratings

Global Beat
Vital Information Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Vibrationbaby

4 stars Fusion On The Beach!

With two fired up fusion jazz salvos ( Vital Information, 1983 & Orion, 1984 ) already under their belts Steve Smith's Vital Information kick their feet up and loosen themselves into a more laid back groove on "Global Beat" and introduce world beat components and the result is one of the most pleasurable jazz albums to appear in the 80s. Many jazz and rock musicians from Miles to Paul Simon had been dabbling in this sort of thing for years and there is nothing really revolutionary to be heard here. But what makes Vital Information's run at the ethno theme so impressive is it's diversity in styles and approach. Not only does it take the listener on a virtual rhythmical sojourn around the world, making stops in such far away places as Trinidad, Thailand and points in between, it also explores local melodies, harmonies and syncopations which create a truly dynamic and vibrant work. The addition of keyboard maestro Tom Coster to the Vital Information roster takes the group even further away from the rock realm into a more jazz rooted fusion concept. Coster does for Vital information what he did for Santana in the seventies on albums like "Caravenseri", "Borloletta" and "Moonflower" while Smith's driving instructive drumming remains as crafty as ever never losing that rock back beat which gives Vital Information it's distinctive added punch.

A grooving post-bop rave up " One Flight Up" breaks the ice followed by " Island Holiday " whose joyous reggae beat conjures up images of pina coladas, women in grass skirts and sandy beaches, a fitting prelude to this hedonistic collage of good time vibes. Those familiar with the two previous Vital Information blowouts need not worry because there are still plenty of crazy solos from saxman Dave Wiczewski who seems to join in at every turn on tenor, alto & soprano. Dean Brown's guitar acquires a more rhythmic attitude but flows well with the metrics. Tim Landers ( some might also know him from the more recent Crimson Jazz Trio ) delivers again with his lyrical bass lines and contributes on " In A Low Voice" which is based on a tuneful fretless bass melody. The overall good time feel notwithstanding, a considerable amount of musical depth is achieved here without becoming too profound and whenever this starts happening everthing is always miraclously brought up to speed, whether with Smith's well thought out syncopations or a Coster keyboard solo jumping out you. One of the most satisfying pieces in this respect is the intricate "Traditions In Transition" ( try saying that fast 10 times! ) that opens up with a pretty keyboard melody that transmorgrifies into an straight up jazz-rock set piece . But it is tracks such as "Johnny Cat " with it's ostensible reggae beat, "Jave & Nail" with a steel drum accompaniment and the Brazilian flavoured " Black Eybrows " typify the atmosphere on Global Beat with Smith even paying hommage to his San Fransico suburb hometown on "Novato". Further authentication is provided by a host of guest pecussion musicians with names like Kwaku Daddy and Prince Joni Haastrup. Guitar veterans Ray Gomez and Mike Stern make appearances as well, the latter dropping in to lay down a smoking solo on the killer closer " Blues To Bappe I ".

You don't have to be an afficionado by any stretch to enjoy the cool breezy grooves on Global Beat. Although it is not as overpowering as previous Vital Information blowouts, the technical facility remains beyond reproach and along with "Faifaga", "Global Beat" is certainly one of the more exoteric Vital Information recordings to date. Without a doubt an album that lives up to it's title and dreamy cover art that will hold appeal for both a casual and more diserning audience. For those who are so equipped, it is available in glorious the DTS 5.1 Surround Sound format in order for more party effect.

 Vital Information by VITAL INFORMATION album cover Studio Album, 1983
3.72 | 8 ratings

Vital Information
Vital Information Jazz Rock/Fusion

Review by Vibrationbaby

5 stars In 1983 while playing with the enormously successful arena rock band Journey drummer Steve Smith revieved a green light from the corridors of power that resided at Columbia Records to proceed with a project that had been burning inside of him since childhood : To form a searing jazz-rock fusion ensemble that would rock, swing and cry with compelling ardour and that would push stylistic parameters. He summoned old buddies Dave Wilczewski on saxes, Dean Brown on guitar, Tim Landers on bass as well as the then Miles Davis guitar whiz Mike Stern and dubbed the project Vital Information. The result, this extraordinary self-titled 1983 debut satisfied his dream ten-fold. It had the high octane energy of Journey but slipped out of Journey`s rock constrictions by substituting the fundamentals and essentials of jazz & blues which embraced the spirit and complexities of 70s fusion monsters such as The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever and Jean-Luc Ponty, the latter with whom Smith had previously recorded and toured with.

As the title would suggest there is a sense of urgency on every one of the seven tracks heard here. Full of devil-may-care electric guitar infusions, eager saxes, singing bass melodies with a sax-driven samba-like piece ( Stoughton To Stockholm ) thrown in for posterity, not to mention Smith`s iconic drumming.

Apart from the funky groovin` Looks Bad, Feels Good which leads off the album, the pulsating Questionable Arrivals or the scorching guitar/drum duet on the title track, first prize on this fusion battle royale must go to the mezmerizing All That Is which defines the whole work . From Dave Wilczewski`s igniting, ponderous tenor sax head through it`s almost straight ahead rock middle section save for some insane key changes it cries and burns itself into a frenzy that also recalls ghosts from other eras of the jazz realm finally resolving itself into a restatement of the head to restore it to a spooky calm with only smoldering embers that were extant afore this unmitigated sonic onslaught. It even recieved some limited play on FM rock radio no doubt partially as result with Smith`s ongoing concerns with Journey.

The whole record reeks of solid musical conviction drenched in passion giving the impression that these cats were really fired up for this baby; a creature that had been in a prolonged embryonic state which had just emerged from it`s gestation period fully mature. Despite the youthfulness of all the players at the time, all had spent some time at The Berkley School of Music and had played with a myriad of jazz and rock artists. For those who had only been familiar with Smith`s stellar work with Journey ( although elements of that are definitely to be found here ) some fans of that band might be taken aback at first by this leviathon. Smith draws more on straight-up jazz drumming with a peculiar bop/big band fusion which he pursues with ferocious abandon and most devious intent! An element which also contributes to the overall might of the work is one that isn`t there but would figure more prominently as Vital Information matured over the years : Keyboards. The absence of which give the music the fiery sound that it seeked, allowing for more catchy melodies to develop particularily with Landers` bass with some very lyrical lines to be heard on tracks like VG and 13th Month the latter being the only piece to feature a keyboard passage featuring Steve Smith himself on the rather pretty piano intro on this fusion ballad that literally burns with emotion and fire.

Simply beyond reproach, Vital Information`s first album is one of those albums that once you`ve eaten it up for the first time you will go for seconds saying to yourself gotta hear that again man!. For years it was a jazz-rock fusion jewel that time forgot until 2005 when it was brought back from the netherworld by Wounded Bird records on CD along with Vital Information`s subsequent `84 release Orion which is but another incredible story! For those of you fusion freaks out there who can`t get enough of 70s style fusion and missed this gem strap yourself into the ejection seat for this ride which ups the ante and blows the stylistic envelope off all 4 quadrants of the musical graph. Impeccable jazz-rock fusion.

Thanks to easy money for the artist addition. and to vibrationbaby for the last updates

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