Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Steve Smith & Vital Information NYC Edition: Viewpoint

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Steve Smith and Vital Information are renowned, successful commodities. Smith has been named one of the top 25 drummers of all time by Modern Drummer magazine, and Vital Information, the ensemble Smith began in 1983 when he was still in Journey, has for decades been an enjoyably high-octane amalgam of fusion jazz laced with funk-rock grooves.

But for those who favor more straight-ahead jazz, Viewpoint features an important twist. This is the “NYC Edition” of Vital Information, which grafts on members of Smith’s other ensembles, Jazz Legacy, and the Buddy Rich tribute band Buddy’s Buddies. Pianist Mark Soskin replaces Tom Coster and Andy Fusco is added on alto saxophone, transforming VI from a quartet to a quintet. The changes are immediately apparent when Soskin bangs out the familiar intro to Thelonious Monk’s “Bemsha Swing” on acoustic piano. Sure, Soskin eventually switches to Fender Rhodes while the band hammers on the tune’s sturdy riff. But then two of the next three songs investigate the Rich songbook, with Rich alumnus and tenor saxophonist Walt Weiskopf arranging and rollicking with Fusco on the frontline for “Time Check” and “Willowcrest.” Later on, Soskin, who spent many years with Sonny Rollins, leads a splendid rendition of Rollins’ classic “Oleo,” and there is a sparkling version of the Desmond/Brubeck chestnut “Take Five” with guitarist Vinny Valentino at the forefront.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published