Jazz CD Reviews

Steve Smith and Vital Information – Vitalization – Hudson Music

Two tracks of konnakol here - South Indian vocal percussion

Published on June 15, 2007

Steve Smith and Vital Information – Vitalization – Hudson Music
Steve Smith and Vital Information – Vitalization – Hudson Music HD-CD-101, 66:00 ****:

(Steve Smith, drums & konnakol; Tom Coster, keyboards and accordion; Baron Browne, bass; Vinny Valentino, guitar; Guests = Bill Evans, tenor/soprano sax; Peter Lockett, tabla/kanjira/ percussion/konnakol; Gilad, congas/percussion; Jean Carlos Melian, congas/percussion)

This band has been in operation for two decades, but was new to me. Drummer Smith plays in various straight-ahead and Indian/fusion bands, and expresses all of his influences in his own group, Vitalization. This is their 12th recording, as a matter of fact. If you haven’t heard of konnakol before, it’s the proper name for the South Indian vocal percussion which performers such as Zakir Hussain often do on recordings of sitar music.  I hadn’t heard it in jazz before, except humorously, and the two tracks involving konnakol here are a real kick – and not without humor either (the two Interwoven Rhythms tracks). Smith and Lockett are at the left and right channels, doing their machine-gun fast stereo rhythmic chants simultaneously in perfect sync.

Many of the other dozen tracks make use of various unusual Indian time signatures. I was reminded of some of the tracks of the old Don Ellis Band.  Often players concentrate so hard on these odd times – such as 15/8 – that they forget to swing. Things take on a mechanical aspect.  That doesn’t happen with Vitalization; these musicians are well used to these rhythms and can really get into a funky groove. Guitarist Vinny Valentino often is the funky glue that holds the whole fusion apparatus together.

TrackList: Interwoven Rhythms – Synchronous, Get Serious, The Trouble With, The Bottom Line, Seven and a Half, Interwoven Rhythms – Dialogue, J. Ben Jazz, Groove Time, You Know What I Mean, The Closer, Jimmy Jive (for Jimmy Smith), Positano.

 - John Henry




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