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Steve Smith must be quite sick of being referred to as "the drummer from Journey" by now. Nothing against that most melodic of radio-rock bands, but Smith is a jazz drummer of the first order, a virtuoso whose humble demeanor belies a fiery nature behind the trap kit.

Smith and his band, Vital Information, have been called the best-kept secret in jazz-fusion, probably because the band is more likely to offer brilliant ensemble interplay in the true jazz tradition than to spotlight the self-indulgent narcissism practiced by so many soloists currently littering the genre.

Writing in Jazz Times, Felix Contreras nailed the essence of Smith and Vital Information when he noted that "The musicians shoot for, and achieve, real emotion rather than soulless fireworks." Of course, having players like guitarist Frank Gambale, (Chick Corea Electric Band) keyboardist Tom Coster, (Santana) and bassist Baron Browne (Billy Cobham/Jean-Luc Ponty) doesn't hurt. Smith has surrounded himself with the cream of the fusion crop here.

Vital Information celebrates the recent release of its critically-acclaimed disc "Come on In" (Tone Center Records) with a show at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Tralf. Tickets are $15 advance through Ticketmaster (852-5000) or the Tralf box office, $18 day-of-show, and $13 for Tralf Club members and students with ID. For details, call 854-3068.

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