Drummer Smith Brings Power to 'Vitalization'
Steve Smith and Vital Information (Hudson Music)
Lao Tizer (YSE)
Contemporary jazz lives and dies with the imagination of its craftsmen. That seems like a statement that is true of any genre, but it is perhaps more applicable in this form. "Vitalization" by powerhouse drummer Steve Smith and "Diversify" by keyboardist Lao Tizer point that out clearly. Smith, as he always does with his group, Vital Information, gives heart to fusion, the form of jazz that can be run into the earth by Spyro Gyra and that ilk. Rather than simply relying on pop rhythms and electronic instruments, Smith gives his music heart with drumming that is polyrhythmic and demanding. His group, featuring keyboardist Tom Coster and guitarist Vinny Valentino, is joined on several tracks by Bill Evans, the ex- Miles Davis saxophonist. Two versions of "Interwoven Rhythms" feature world-music chanting amid its percussive sound. "Jimmy Jive" is a tribute to organist Jimmy Smith and "Seven and a Half" sounds like a tribute to guitarist George Benson even if it isn't. Tizer's album, meanwhile, is pleasant, but not creative. His piano playing is solid, but not terribly inventive. Saxophonist Andy Suzuki plays with a David Sanborn style, but never says anything memorable. The title track and songs like it are enjoyable background while tunes such as "Olivas Adobe" hint at instrumental exploration, but never really develops any. "Diversify" never quite does what the title suggests. Tizer will perform in a free concert 8 p.m. Aug. 17 at South Park.
-- Bob Karlovits
Jane Monheit (Concord)
Singer Jane Monheit is constantly miscast. Billed as a jazz singer and surrounded with the instrumental accoutrement of that work, she offers songs that have some of the rhythmic and harmonic parts of the music. …