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Steve Smith and Buddy’s Buddies: Very Live at Ronnie Scott’s

Steve Smith, variously known as the drummer from Journey and the leader of Vital Information, found a new niche in the mid-’90s when he participated in a scholarship concert with the Buddy Rich Orchestra. Very Live at Ronnie Scott’s (Tone Center) capitalizes on that moment with a small-group evocation of Rich’s legacy, featuring tenor saxophonist Steve Marcus, alto Andy Fusco, pianist Mark Soskin and bassist Baron Browne. This set from Rich’s landmark hangout Ronnie Scott’s finds the group in fairly good form, playing scaled-down arrangements of band favorites like “Nutville” and “Ya Gotta Try.” But their performance sounds a bit unconvincing at times, owing to the rather stilted swing of a bassist-drummer pair obviously more accustomed to fusion and funk. Smith also indulges in several demonstrations in pure pyrotechnics-a practice that was somehow less egregious back when Rich was the perpetrator.

Very Live at Ronnie Scott’s may be a good investment for Buddy-philes and drum technicians, but any of the other releases listed in this column would better fulfill an appetite for musical fare.

Originally Published