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Steve Smith and Vital Information is an American jazz-fusion group led by drummer Steve Smith.
The core members of the original line-up of Vital Information — Steve Smith (drums), Tim Landers (bass) and Dave Wilczewski (sax) — met in 1971 during their high school years while playing together in the Bridgewater State College Big Band, a Boston area college band that also featured outstanding high school students, the band was under the direction of Vincent Gannon. By 1977 Smith was touring with Jean-Luc Ponty, Landers with Al Di Meola and Wilczewski with Freddie Hubbard. They met in Boston once a year for a “reunion” gig using various guitarists such as Dean Brown, Daryl Stuermer or Barry Finnerty to complete the band. From 1977–1982 the three principle band members wrote many compositions, played a number of gigs and developed the sound and concept that became the first edition of Vital Information.
After Smith was in Journey for a few years he was able to secure a Columbia record deal for his first solo album. The group recorded Vital Information (1983), which featured Landers, Wilczewski and Smith along with guitarists Dean Brown and Mike Stern. The album was recorded in Warren, RI in January 1983 and released that summer. In September ‘83 the band toured the USA with the Dutch guitarist Eef Albers replacing Mike Stern, who was on the road with both Miles Davis and Jaco Pastorius. At the end of the tour the group returned to RI and recorded Orion (1984), their second album.
After leaving Journey in 1985 Steve Smith continued on as the bandleader of Vital Information with Tim Landers and Dave Wilczewski eventually leaving the group to pursue their own careers. Landers is a successful studio musician in Los Angeles and Wilczewski moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where he was a key player in the European music scene until his untimely death on August 22, 2009.
Tom Coster (keyboards), formerly of Santana, joined Vital Information in 1986 and first appeared on Global Beat (1987), which integrated hand percussion and steel drums into the direction of the music. Kai Eckhardt (bass), later with John McLaughlin, and Torsten de Winkel (guitar), later with the Pat Metheny Group, joined Vital Information in 1986 and 1987 for tours in the United States and Europe and appeared on and composed for the group's next album, Fiafiaga (1988), which generally continued with the Global Beat direction but added computer-based and funkier sounds to the stylistic mix.
A more straight-ahead jazz version of the group, with Larry Grenadier (acoustic bass), Larry Schneider (sax), Tom Coster (keys), Frank Gambale (guitar), Steve Smith (drums), recorded Vitalive! (1990). The album has recently been re-mastered and rereleased. Jeff Andrews (bass) joined the band in the early 1990s recording Easier Done Than Said (1992) and Ray of Hope (1996).
Vital Information re-invented themselves as a more organic groove-oriented band with the direction of Where We Come from (1998). Baron Browne (bass) joined the band in 1998, which further solidified their more funk-oriented approach. With the line-up of Smith (drums) Tom Coster (keys), Frank Gambale (guitar) and Browne (bass) they recorded Live Around the World (2000), Show ‘Em Where You Live (2001) and Live from Mars (2002). With the recording Come on in (2004) Smith started introducing Indian rhythms into the music. On Vitalization (2007) Vinny Valentino joined Vital Information on guitar and Smith featured himself on his recently developed konnakol chops along with integrating more Indian rhythms into the music.
Live! One Great Night is Vital Information’s latest release and is the first of a number of releases to commemorate their 30th Anniversary.
Steve Smith has been recently been touring with a version of the band called “Vital Information NYC Edition” that features Valentino and Browne along with Mark Soskin on keyboards and Andy Fusco on alto sax. Fusco and Soskin are two musicians from Smith’s other bands Buddy’s Buddies and Jazz Legacy. With VI NYC Edition the band plays the classic Vital Information songs along with the music of Jazz Legacy and Buddy’s Buddies. In November 2012 VI NYC Edition recorded a live album and new studio album. The Vital Information NYC Edition recordings will be released in 2013 as part of the groups 30th Anniversary Celebration.