Former Journey Man Plays Jazz Rock In London
One-time Journey drummer Steve Smith played at Ronnie Scott’s in London last night (May 25) with current band Steve Smith & Vital Information, showcasing the jazzier end of his repertoire. Xavier Russell gets all syncopated to check it out. N-i-i-i-i-c-e!
So, Steve Smith is back in London with Vital Information, playing two sold-out shows at the prestigious Ronnie Scott’s Club. Smith was always considered to be the engine room behind Journey’s success and, like so many other great heavy rock drummers, he has a jazz -ock pedigree. Look no further than Cliff Davies (Ted Nugent), Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Carl Palmer (Asia, ELP), Phil Collins (Genesis, Brand X) and Neil Peart (Rush).
What is odd is that Journey started out life as a jazz-rock fusion combo and the band’s first three studio albums – Journey (1975), Look Into The Future (1976) and Next (1977) – were a far cry from the great Escape (1981). However, Smith didn’t actually join Journey until 1979. By then the band had turned into an AOR monster; he debuted on the Evolution album (1979) and remained with band until 1985; Steve then took up the Journey drum stool for another blast between 1995-1998.
Smith’s first love, though, has always been jazz rock and his output with Vital Information, since their 1983 debut, has been prolific. But this was the first time I’d clapped eyes on Steve since I saw Journey on their Frontiers tour, at the Los Angeles Forum in 1983.
I’d forgotten just what a good drummer the man is (he should be. as he was given his first drum kit aged just two!). The lively excursions around his kit were a joy to behold. He makes the art of good drumming so simple, with his stop-start routines especially on the song 7 1/2, which he then spieled on went into 15/8 time, or 1, 2, 3! Yeah, confusing, but try playing that the way he does.
Some may find the idea of jazz-rock a touch tedious, but let me say here and now this gig was definitely more at the rock end of the jazz scale. Evidence of which could be found on Get Serious from the Vitalization album (2007), with Steve laying into his kit with an almighty thunder, while the groove was eased along by Baron Browne’s thumping bass, Vinnie Valentino’s jazzy guitar pickin’, and rounded off with Tom Coster’s Hammond B3 tinkling away merrily in the background.
This being Ronnie Scott’s the sound mix was faultless – you could even hear every bristle on Smith’s brushes as he smoothly worked his way back and forth across the snare drum.
The man really is a master of his craft – and there’s no chance of a return to Journey, not while he’s having this much fun!
Tags: Asia, Baron Browne, Brand X, Carl Palmer, Cliff Davies, Dave Lombardo, ELP, Genesis, Journey, Neil Peart, Phil Collins, Rush, Slayer, Steve Smith, Steve Smith & Vital Information, Ted Nugent, Tom Coster, Vinnie Valentino