Steve Smith's Vital Information has lasted longer than any single jazz-fusion band in history, even trumping the decade-plus run of the mother of all fusion bands, Weather Report. During that tenure, band members have come and gone, but drummer Smith's vision -- to marry the harmonic information of jazz to music that employs swing, funk, R&B and progressive rock tropes -- has remained the same.
Though Smith toured the world and recorded several multiplatinum albums as a member of Journey, at heart he has always been a jazz musician, as even a casual glance at his resume -- which includes stints with Ahmad Jamal and the Buddy Rich Big Band, among dozens of others -- will attest. Vital Information has remained Smith's musical home base since its formation in the early '80s.
The guitarist's seat in Vital Information has always been a hot one, from the band's early days with former Miles Davis fusion god Mike Stern, through the twin-ax tenure of Dean Brown and Eef Albers, to the lengthy run of virtuoso Frank Gambale. Now, Vinny Valentino has settled into the six-stringer's chair, joining Smith and longtime collaborators Baron Browne (bass) and Tom Coster (keys) to form the most groove-conscious -- and simultaneously organic -- version of Vital Information to date.
Vital Information visits the Tralf, 622 Main St., at 7 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $16.50 in advance, $18.50 on the day of the show. Find them now at the Tralf box office or through Ticketmaster.
-- Jeff Miers