Vital Information
United States
Music group
After nine Vital Information recordings, including 1998's Indie Award winning "Where We Come From" and 2000's "Live Around The World," Steve Smith, Tom Coster, Frank Gambale, and Baron Browne are back to show us where the band "lives today." Show 'Em Where You Live is Vital Information's new studio recording, and a milestone in the direction of this veteran, hard-touring band.

Versatile keyboardist Tom Coster has been firmly entrenched in the San Francisco music scene for over 30 years. He was playing with Gabor Szabo and Rahsaan Roland Kirk long before he came to prominence in Santana, a stay that lasted eight years.

Explorative guitarist Frank Gambale, first hit the international scene (like Smith) playing with Jean-Luc Ponty, he later gained more attention as a member of Chick Corea's popular and Grammy Award winning Elektric Band. Both Coster and Gambale are Vital Information mainstays, having been featured on the last six recordings, as well as leading many recordings under their own names.

Bassist Baron Browne is the newest member of Vital Information, having joined the band in 1998. His funky four string approach roots the band in the true essence of funk, giving the group a deep, grounded feeling. Browne has worked in the past with Gary Burton, Billy Cobham, Jean-Luc Ponty, Steps Ahead and Kevin Eubanks but has never sounded better than he does with Vital Information.

The group’s founder and drummer, Steve Smith, has a resume that stretches from Ahmad Jamal, Zakir Hussain and Steps Ahead to Mariah Carey, Savage Garden and Journey. It is no surprise that he won Modern Drummer Magazine's #1 All Around Drummer award five years in a row and was voted one of the Top 25 Drummers of All Time in a recent Modern Drummer readers poll, in 2002 Smith was voted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame. In the last four years, Smith has led or co-led twelve different jazz or jazz/rock projects for the Tone Center label. His educational Hudson Music DVD "Steve Smith - Drumset Technique and History of the U.S. Beat" is a best seller in the music educational market. Steve Smith is one of the most constantly evolving drummers on the scene today.

Where We Come From was a new beginning for Vital Information. The band had decided to reintroduce themselves to their musical roots. This process found them reinvestigating many different styles of music including New Orleans music, Blues, Bebop, R&B, Soul Jazz, and Free Jazz. Each member of the band wound up rediscovering forgotten influences, and bringing them to the sessions. "With Where We Come From, we made a conscious decision to go back to our roots, and inject them directly into our music," Smith recalls, "that was the idea behind keyboardist Tom Coster using the Hammond B3 and the accordion and guitarist Frank Gambale playing a hollow body jazz guitar." After musically reinventing themselves, recording Where We Come From, and a good deal of touring, which is well documented on the double CD Live Around The World, the concept of reinvention has now taken on a complete life of its own.

Show 'Em Where You Live finds the band further exploring the process of reinvention, while also introducing some new ingredients into the mix. Coster has added the Fender Rhodes to his keyboard setup and Gambale has been experimenting with many exotic, yet organic, new sounds. Smith is playing a different instrument as well. He explains, "I grew up playing a small jazz drumset, but I haven't recorded very much on a small kit. So for this record I went back to playing a small four piece set and two cymbals."

Many of the compositions on the new record were written with specific influences in mind. "Soul Principle" draws inspiration from the Herbie Hancock Headhunter band. Tom Coster’s "Shagadelic Boogaloo" is a direct descendant of Booker T & the MG's, and "The Blackhawk" conjures up the feeling of Lee Morgan at the classic San Francisco nightclub of the same name. "Awaken The Hoodoo" is a nod to the Tony Williams Lifetime, and the jazz classic "Gingerbread Boy" is played with the same elasticity that Miles Davis' band performed it in the 60s.

Many of Vital Information's tunes grow out of collective ideas that the band develops in the studio. The group documents some of these spontaneous collaborations and has inserted them on the new record, this time around calling them "Cranials." Expounding on this process Smith states, "We’ve been playing together for so long that many times we just turn on the tape, and let the creativity flow." The tune "Brake Failure" evolved this way and features Gambale exploring some of the darker sounds of the guitar.

The band’s extensive touring has given them a chance to explore and grow together. This exploration has given us the swinging new tune "Mr. T. C." and the rhythmically evasive "Sideways Blues." The members of Vital Information write together, and they play together with the depth and experience that can only develop from an ongoing, working, touring band. This is a band in every sense of the word. All of the disparate influences, challenging compositions, along with an intelligent and creative approach to the music makes this a very special group, and this their best record.

The music world owes a big thanks to Smith, Coster, Gambale, and Browne. Vital Information is a band whose music resonates from the past but surges fearlessly towards the future. Through reinventing themselves, they have formulated an eclectic and exciting new brand of music. Show 'Em Where You Live will substantiate the importance and the eloquence of the music we call "fusion."

-- Mark Griffith, Modern Drummer/Recording Artist
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