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Steve Smith steps ahead on his Journey

PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2018 6:40 pm
by tater1977
by George W. Harris • January 1, 2018 ... formation/


They wanted me in the band. They wanted what I was doing. Aynsley’s concept is a great example of that early generation of rock drumming that is highly swinging and influenced by jazz improvisation. It was a perfect fit for the early years of Journey.

He was close to getting the gig with Jimi Hendrix, but Mitch Mitchell (who also plays in a very similar manner) got the job. If you read Mitch Mitchell’s book (The Hendrix Experience), he says in his autobiography that it came down to a coin toss between him and Dunbar because they had such similar styles.

So when I came into Journey they were still playing their earlier instrumental material which required improvisation and odd time signatures, more like an extension of Jean-Luc Ponty and Montrose, but they also wanted the more US R&Bish groove that I could bring.

Just living in the USA and being exposed to James Brown and Motown as part of our culture I could bring that to the rock drumming in the band to add that certain kind of groove. And that is what Steve Perry was really looking for.

His singing is purely out of gospel, like how so many pop singers came from gospel like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson. Those were his role models; you can hear it in his voice. He took the Sam Cooke school of R&B singing and took it to a rock audience. They didn’t know the difference; they just loved his voice and his inflections.

He needed that R&Bish gospel groove in the rock mode, and I could do that. I felt that the main reason they wanted me in the band was so that they could develop what they had initially started with the Infinity record and bring it to its potential

Re: Steve Smith steps ahead on his Journey

PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:56 pm
by tater1977
Journey drummer Steve Smith keeps things in balance with own jazz band ... -jazz-band

By Paul Liberatore, Marin Independent Journal Posted: 01/11/18,

For Steve Smith, named one of the top 25 drummers of all time by Modern Drummer magazine, life is about balance.

Musically, the 63-year-old virtuoso is a longtime member of Journey, one of the biggest, most bombastic and best-selling rock bands of all time. On the opposite end of the scale, he’s the founder and leader of a not-quite-as-well-known jazz group called Vital Information.

Geographically, the balance continues. When he and his wife, Diane, sold their house in Novato in 2006 after living in Marin for 28 years, they bought a home in Ashland, Oregon, and an apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They split their time between the two.

“It’s a pretty well-balanced lifestyle,” he says, speaking by phone from Ashland this week. “One without the other is too much of a good thing.”

At the moment, his focus is on the NYC Edition of Vital Information, also featuring bassist Baron Browne, keyboardist Mark Soskin, guitarist-singer Vinny Valentino and saxophonists Andy Fusco and George Brooks. The group, celebrating its 35th anniversary, will be at Yoshi’s in Oakland on Jan. 31, playing tunes from its new album, “Heart of the City.” In May, Smith embarks on another six-month tour with Journey, sharing the bill with Def Leppard.

Moving to Marin

A Berklee-trained jazz drummer, Smith had been on the road with guitarist Ronnie Montrose when Journey hired him in 1978 to replace original drummer Aynsley Dunbar for the band’s fifth album, “Evolution,” and subsequent tour. “Evolution” was the second album with lead singer Steve Perry, the power balladeer who transformed the band from a progressive rock group into an commercially successful (and often criticized) arena band with hits like “Wheel in the Sky” in 1978 and “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” in 1979.

As he settled into his new gig, the Massachusetts native moved to Mill Valley and then lived in Lagunitas for a number of years before settling in Novato. He toured the world with Journey until the band’s “Raised on Radio” album in 1985, when he and bassist Ross Valory were fired by Perry, a move the singer would later regret.

“The band had been working nonstop for seven years, some of the relationships were frayed and things fell apart,” Smith recalls. “There was a lot of stress and pressure. It was tough at the time, but it didn’t take me long to see that it was actually a good move for me to be out of the band because it jettisoned me into my own career, which ultimately is very satisfying for me.”

Before Journey, Smith had played with French jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and in the jazz group Steps Ahead with Michael Brecker. He’d formed Vital Information in 1977, and was now free to restart his jazz career.

“It ended up being a good thing for me because it’s hard to leave a group when its successful and doing well without a nudge,” he says, looking back. “At this point, I’m grateful that happened.”

After leaving Journey, Smith kept in touch with his former bandmates, particularly guitarist Neal Schon, playing on his solo records. In 1996, he was invited to rejoin the band for a new studio album, “Trial by Fire.” But when Perry needed hip replacement surgery and couldn’t go on tour to promote the record, Smith bowed out while band members searched for a new lead singer, eventually hiring Steve Augeri.

“Finding a new lead singer is like starting all over again,” he says. “I already had my own career going very strong by then, so I left to focus on being a band leader, sideman, studio musician and educator.”

Journey again

Smith resumed his ride on the Journey roller coaster in 2015 when he was asked if he’d like to sign on to tour again, replacing drummer Deen Castronovo. At that point, Perry had long since walked away from the band, disappearing from the music scene. He was eventually replaced by the young Filipino lead singer Arnel Pineda. Smith ended up going out on six-month tours with Journey in 2016 and ’17.

When Journey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017, Smith was honored along with original drummer Dunbar, keyboardists Gregg Rolie and Jonathan Cain, both former Marin residents, bassist Valory, guitarist Schon and Perry, who showed up for the ceremony and gave an acceptance speech but didn’t perform. Graciously, Smith harbored no animosity toward him over his firing decades before.

“I always liked Steve, he looked great and it was nice to see him,” he says.

In his career, Smith has enjoyed the best of both worlds. He may have to play Journey’s classic hits — like “Lights,” “Faithfully,” “Don’t Stop Believing,’” “Who’s Crying Now” and “Separate Ways” — the same way night after night because that’s what the music and the fans demand, but that’s offset by the improvisational jazz of Vital Information and the music he creates with other master musicians he collaborates with, including San Anselmo’s great Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. It’s that balance thing again.

“Playing with Journey isn’t boring for me because I know that in a couple of months I’ll be playing with my band and doing a lot of improvising,” he explains. “I have a very balanced schedule.”

Re: Steve Smith steps ahead on his Journey

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:19 am
by scarab
I am amazed Steve is gonna go on the road for 6 months. Thought his deal was for 2 years?
Either the money was too good or maybe he is under a new contract?

Re: Steve Smith steps ahead on his Journey

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:20 am
by Memorex
scarab wrote:I am amazed Steve is gonna go on the road for 6 months. Thought his deal was for 2 years?
Either the money was too good or maybe he is under a new contract?

Or maybe he is at a point he is finding it fun and rewarding. Or all of the above.

Re: Steve Smith steps ahead on his Journey

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:40 am
by JourneyHard
Now, Journey must do a new album and call it Balance.