Drummer Steve Smith (Journey, Jean-Luc Ponty, Steps Ahead) has been touring and recording with his group Vital Information since 1983, making 2023 the 40th Anniversary of the group.
Although the band is rooted in the straight-ahead swing of bebop, at times they explore exotic time-signatures from the world of South Indian Carnatic music and have arranged adventurous funk-driven renditions of jazz standards. Seeing Steve Smith and Vital Information live in concert is a perfect opportunity to experience their high-level musicianship, sense of joy onstage and collective virtuosic improvisation.
For Time Flies, Smith has re-envisioned the group as a piano trio with a massive sound and wide conceptual range. Throughout the album, they cover everything from high-energy jazz-rock, "stadium" ballads, grooving odd-times to burning straight-ahead swing."Time Flies" is a 60-minute, 12-track odyssey with one of the most potent versions of Vital Information ever assembled!
The companion album, A Prayer For The Generations, materialized through improvisational sessions featuring George Garzone on tenor sax. Aside from a John Coltrane cut as the album opener, "Prayer" consists of eight improvised tracks from Garzone, Smith, and Vital Information. Smith notes that the album was born when he, Garzone, Valera, and Gwizdala settled on one mission: “Let’s play like we’re offering a prayer." The group entered a creative zone of instant composition, creating eight complete pieces of music in the span of just three hours.
In a first for Vital Information, both albums are presented in immersive audio. The Dolby Atmos mixes were created by Kostadin Kamcev at Mozart Studio in New York. The Atmos mixes eerily transport the listener into the studio with the band, yielding an incredible new listening experience that makes the traditional two-channel stereo version obsolete.
Immersive streaming on Apple Music and Tidal is a great way to sample these albums, but the new Dolby TrueHD/Atmos MKV files from IAA’s shop provide an infinitely more rewarding experience for audiophiles.
Some of the more subtle time-based effects in the mix, such as the ‘you-are-there’ room reverberation in the height speakers, seem to expose limitations within the 768 kbps Dolby Digital Plus/JOC codec. With lossless Dolby TrueHD, the detail and clarity heard in the studio is much better preserved.
For lovers of jazz fusion and immersive audio, these two albums are a must-hear listening experience!