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

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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).

Discography
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)