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Former Journey drummer spreading Vital Information with jazz ensemble

for Journal Register Newspapers

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Though known to many as the drummer on Journey's best-selling albums, Steve Smith is spending the year celebrating the 30th anniversary of Vital Information, the jazz fusion ensemble he formed after leaving the rock world.

It's an occasion that's snuck up on him, but he also feels the passage of time.

"It does feel like 30 years," says the Massachusetts-born Smith, 57, who released a concert album, "Live! One Great Night," with one of his Vital Information lineups and is working on a new studio set with another incarnation of the quartet for a 2013 release. "Obviously it's been 30 years of Vital Information, but it's been 30 years of my life, too.

"So when I look back and see everything that's happened i that time -- I have a 30-year-old son, a 27-year-old daughter -- it does seem like the time's gone by extremely quickly."

Despite his notoriety, Smith says it's "very rare" that he gets request to play Journey songs with Vital Information. "I still have a certain amount of Journey fans that come to some shows," he notes, "but the audience that I've developed over the years is for the music I'm playing then and not for (Journey)." But Smith maintains a "friendly" relationship with the Journey camp and even played with guitarist Neal Schon at a tribute concert for the late Ronnie Montrose and also recorded on some tracks for an upcoming Schon solo album.

"He called me to see if I'd play on four songs," Smith recalls. "We booked two or three days to do it and played those four songs in one day. He had no more material, so we just started to play and spent three more days and came up with the rest of the music -- 11 tracks, or it might be 12, basically just he and I, and he filled it out from there.

"It was a lot of fun, something I hadn't done in a long time. We got into this real creative mode like we used to do with Journey -- 'Alright, let's just try and idea and do this or that.' In four days we had a whole record done."

Steve Smith & Vital Information perform Thursday and Friday, June 21-22, at the Jazz Cafe in the Music Hall Center, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 in advance, $40 at the door. Call 313-887-8500 or visit www.jazzcafe.detroit.com.

Web Site: www.jazzcafe.detroit.com

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