JJ 08/91: Steve Smith & Vital Information – Vitalive!

Thirty years ago Mark Gilbert enjoyed VI's latest, which marked one of the early reappearances of acoustic bass in jazz fusion. First published in Jazz Journal August 1991


Steve Smith’s seven-year associ­ation with the heavy-rocking chart-topping Journey is easily discerned in this likeable Californian club date, but he also takes the opportunity to show that his heart is in jazz by using an ‘acous­tic’ bass and offering harmless readings of I Should Care and tenorist Larry Schneider’s Trane/ Elvin tribute Mac Attack.

The group also connect resoundingly with soul jazz in Tim Landers’ prowling Looks Bad, Feels Good, which is the album’s most event­ful track and draws from the best of both the jazz and rock worlds. It’s difficult to get excited about such MoR jollities as Island Hol­iday or the maudlin (What Lies) Beyond but a number of the more routine pieces are enlivened by good Corea-like jazz from pianist Coster and demonstrations of Gambale’s remarkable sweep-picking technique.

Well worth hearing for Looks Good, though I marginally prefer the group’s 1983 reading with Mike Stern on Vital Information (CBS FC38955).

One Flight Up; Looks Bad, Feels Good; Jave And A Nail; (What Lies) Beyond; I Should Care; Mac Attack; Johnny Cat; The Perfect Date; Island Holiday; Europa (Earth’s Cry-Heaven’s Smile) (63.52)
Smith (d); Tom Coster (kyb); Frank Gambale (elg); Larry Schneider (ts); Larry Grenadier (b). Club Nova 2, Ignacio, Ca, August 21, 1989.
(veraBra vBr 2051 2)