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Smith, Steve: The Best of Steve Smith-The Tone Center Collection

What do you get when you roll together some fiery fusion, barnstormin' bluesy rock, and a bit of tasty, classy jazz? Well, the music of acclaimed drummer Steve Smith of course! Smith has long been one of the legends of modern drumming, from his early days with jaz-fusion violinist Jean Luc Ponty to stadium tours with Journey, all the way through to his solo material and burning fusion with his band Vital Information. Best of Steve Smith takes a look at his Tone Center years, and features a variety of players who have appeared on his albums over the years.

Opening cut "King Twang" is from the Vital Tech Tones release, and features some smoldering wah-wah licks from Tribal Tech guitar wizard Scott Henderson and virtuoso bass courtesy of Victor Wooten. Frank Gambale & Stu Hamm join the fray on "Geo 100" from the GHS 3 release, and this one is a hot fusion ripper that sees all three players really shining. "Wrong is Right" is a more traditional sounding jazz/fusion number featuring Larry Coryell on guitar and Tom Coster on Hammond organ, and Mahavishnu Orchestra/Dixie Dregs violinist rips it up alongside Smith's acrobatic drum fills on the wild "Caliente". Fans of traditional jazz will love "Nutville" from the Steve Smith and Buddy's Buddies release, especially to hear some impressive drum work and intense sax from Steve Marcus. Steve gets to show off on the practically 'drums only' pieces "Drums Stop, No Good" and "The Spirit of Dun Dun", while "Scotland" is from Counts Jam Band-Reunion and sees Coryell, Marcus, Smith, Jeff Chimenti, and Kai Eckhardt getting down and fusiony just like vintange Eleventh House. If you doubted that Coryell could still wail on the guitar, check this one out! Smith and the Buddies are back with some bouncy be-bop on the upbeat "Ya Gotta Try", and "Baton Rouge" is a pleasant number from Smith's band Vital Information. Though it's a decent number, with so many hot tunes from that band I'm surprised they picked one of the tamer ones for this collection. The finale of "Khanda West/Flashpoint" starts off with a blistering drum solo from Smith and then morphs into a melodic bit of centemporary fusion with soaring sax lines and intricate bass & drum grooves.

Overall, this is a fun set from Steve Smith, complete with plenty of drum solos and great ensemble playing. I'm a little hesitant to say that this is a 'definitive' representation of his Tone Center work, as there are certainly some stronger songs out there from those many releases, but for a broad overview for the 'uninitiated', this is certainly a very good sampling of the drummer's talents, compositional skills, and more than capable list of friends.

Track Listing
1. King Twang
2. Geo 100
3. Wrong Is Right
4. Caliente
5. Nutville
6. Drums Stop, No Good
7. The Spirit of Dun Dun
8. Scotland
9. Ya Gotta Try
10. Baton Rouge
11. Khanda West
12. Flashpoint

Added: October 20th 2009
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Artist website
Hits: 1676
Language: english

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