Friday, June 1, 2012

Catching Up With Steve Smith LIVE! One Great Night Interview Part 2

You are a master technician but as they DVD shows, an incredibly lyrical drummer in the style of say a Max Roach...Strictly as a drummer where do your influence come from. I think I hear some Max Roach....I think I hear some middle eastern influence in some of the rhythmic patterns. Can you shed a little light on this or are you simply a cultural byproduct of your own experience?

The answer is all of the above and more. Of course my main influences comes from where and when I was born and grew up which was the Boston area and I was a teenager in the late 60s and early 70s. I gravitated toward big band music in my early years and saw the big bands of Buddy Rich, Maynard Ferguson and Count Basie as well as rock groups like Led Zeppelin, Mountain and Grand Funk. Then I saw electric Miles, Billy Cobham’s first band, Tony Williams New Lifetime, Weather Report, Larry Coryell’s 11th House, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters.
At Berklee I discovered Max Roach, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Papa Jo Jones and Rashid Ali. I played a lot of big band and small group jazz while living in Boston from ’72-’76. From ’76-‘85 I played jazz/fusion with Jean-Luc Ponty, rock/fusion with Ronnie Montrose and rock with Journey so those experience formed the rock side of my playing. Joining Steps Ahead in 1986 and then playing with Ahmad Jamal were also major learning experiences. You put that all together plus the hours spent listening, studying, transcribing and practicing you get some insight into my development. The melodic/lyrical approach of Max is something that really speaks to me and I think he got a lot of his influence from Art Blakey. Art played thematically, which I think influenced Max to make his innovations. As I mentioned before I’ve been studying with, and playing with, many Indian musicians, which gives me another perspective on rhythm.

What is the future holding for Steve Smith and Vital Information and what was the name of the last disc you purchased jazz or otherwise?

S.S - "I have another version of the group called Vital Information NYC Edition with Vinny Valentino and Baron Browne along with Andy Fusco on alto and Mark Soskin on keyboards. We have recently recorded a new live album and a new studio album with that group. We’ll release those next year and do some touring with that group. I’ve also been doing some touring with Hiromi, who is absolutely an amazing musician, and next year I’ll be playing with a new version of Steps Ahead helping Mike Mainieri celebrate his 75th birthday!

As far as my latest purchases, I buy a lot of music in three different formats: some downloads, some CDs and some vinyl. In the past couple of weeks I bought Marilyn Mazur’s “Celestial Circle,” Jeff Hamilton’s “Red Sparkle” (on CD), Black Keys “El Camino” and Dr. John “Locked Down” (vinyl), Robert Glasper “Black Radio,” Herbie Hancock “Thrust,” and Lenny White “The Adventures of Astral Pirates.” (download)"

Special thanks to Michael Bloom of Michael Bloom Media Relations for hooking us up!
Extra special thanks to Steve Smith for being so gracious in fielding a few questions for us!

My review of Live! One Great Night