What a treat to have Vital Information at Gerald Veasley's Jazz Base in Reading, Pennsylvania. World renowned drummer Steve Smith started the band in 1983, and the players with him for this special night couldn�t have been better! Smith, having played with �top of the charts� band Journey from 1978 to 1985, explained his evolution by saying that he �feels right playing a blend of jazz, rock and fusion.� Guitarist Frank Gambale, of Chick Corea�s Elektric Band, former Santana player Tom Coster on keyboard, and Baron Browne, bass player from Gary Burton days, all came together with Smith to rock the Jazz Base early in the season.
Starting off with �Come On In,� the title song from their new CD, they immediately established that this was going to be an awesome performance. They went on to play �Catwalk� and �Europa� (originally played by Santana and written by Tom Coster!)and they had the crowd�s rapt attention.
It was fun to watch Steve Smith, who smiles to the audience during most of his drumming. What he does seems so effortless, yet the skill he has is something wonderful to behold. Perhaps mentioning that he�s constantly doing drum clinics and touring all over the world, and that he�s been voted All-Around Drummer by Modern Drummer for five years in a row tells at least some of his story. In fact, he�s been called one of the top 25 drummers of all time! He�s ecstatic to be playing the drums and it shows, over and over during his performance.
The band went on to play �Time Tunnel,� �Around the World,� �Baton Rouge�(featuring an accordion), and there were many drum feats sprinkled in the songs. �High Wire� was another choice for the night, along with Journey song, �Don�t Stop Believin.� Coster and Browne definitely added to the energy and sound, each having their special moments to show such a high level of skill. All four players are so vital to the overall performance and after all, that�s what a great band is all about. No wonder they are named �Vital Information!�
Frank Gambale is an artist who looks so at peace when he�s playing his instrument. He appears so easy going and fun, the kind of player with a sort of twinkle in his eye. Frank plays faster than anyone I�ve ever seen, and it seems so very easy for him! He must be concentrating, but it�s not obvious that he is!
Both Frank and Steve are ready to handle anything on stage, and this was demonstrated when, after a particularly mesmerizing, high energy performance by Frank, all of us stood up, clapping wildly, and one of the fans near him couldn�t contain herself and jumped right up and kissed him! Frank took this in stride and in good humor (though I did notice he sat down to play for a while after that excitement), while Steve got the band immediately back to the business at hand, never missing a beat, moving the music, and the night, forward. I got the feeling Steve could handle absolutely anything that threatened to interfere with any show � but then he�s used to �keeping the beat.�
Another fun part of the evening came when Steve talked about playing in Lebanon, PA (a 45 minute drive from Reading) two nights later, and encouraged us to join them. He then went on to say they were also going to play in Beirut, Lebanon. For a minute we thought he was inviting us to Beirut! I�m sure some fans at the Jazz Base that night followed them to Lebanon (Pa, that is!) I�m not sure if any of the Reading fans made it to Beirut! After two weeks in Beirut, their schedule included a concert in Moscow, so this band really gets around!
Smith has also developed a DVD Drumset: Technique/History of the U.S. Beat, that traces the history of American rhythm. His knowledge and mastery of drumming were an exciting combination for the audience to experience on the night of this show. I�m sure many of us can�t wait for a return engagement of Vital Information at the Jazz Base!
To get more information about this great band, visit www.vitalinformation.com.
Beverly J. Packard
Jazz Circle Member of the Berks Arts Council
Photo credits: Michael Packard