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Ex-Journey drummer launches new jazz fusion project

of the Oakland Press

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Since splitting from Journey in 1985 after nearly eight years in the band, drummer Steve Smith has made his mark in the jazz world with groups such as Vital Information.

But with his new Raga Bop Trio, Smith and his cohorts — saxophonist George Brooks and guitarist Prasanna — have fused jazz and Indian styles into their own sound, featured on the group’s self-titled debut album.

“There’s a lot of challenges to it,” notes Smith, 56, “and I do enjoy pushing myself into uncomfortable situations, all in the name of developing my musicianship and my understanding of music and my familiarity with rhythms that are challenging and interesting for me to play.”

And, Smith adds, the format of the Raga Bop Trio presents another layer of sonic adventure to the mix.

“There’s the challenge of getting a group to sound full and complete with the instrumentation of drums, guitar and saxophone,” he explains. “It’s not totally unprecedented to have a trio like that, with no bass player, but it’s a very unexplored, untapped concept to work within.

“I enjoy the challenge of making music in that setting and making it sound complete. And I do like playing with these musicians and the music we write. It’s exciting. That’s what I live for in music.”

The Raga Bop Trio performs at 8 and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 19-20, at the Jazz Cafe in the Music Hall Center, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $37.75. Call 313-887-8532 or visit www.jazzcafedetroit.com.

Web Site: www.jazzcafedetroit.com

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