Sunday, December 27, 2009

Very Vital Information

It's 2003, I'm sitting in Blues Alley in Georgetown, DC with my two sons aged 17 and 15. The elder son is a young guitarist, having already absorbed what I could teach him and currently enrolled in lessons with a sweep picker in the Richmond, VA area. The younger son is an aspiring drummer, also in lessons, a rock player whom I convinced to come see this thing called 'fusion'. Both are about to receive master class lessons from Messieurs Gambale and Smith.

We've snagged a table right in front of the guitar rig. Marshall rack mounted preamp, TC Electronics G Force effects processor, pair of two twelve speaker cabinets, power amp and a bar stool. Blues Alley is a great club where you order dinner before the band comes on, so we choose some of the Cajun specialties and try to make sure not to spill anything on Mr. G's gear.

The band members step out to take their places, water bottles in hand. Frank sits down at the bar stool, his black Yamaha AES signature guitar with the bent-fret 'wave' system draped over him. He's looking for a place to set his water bottle. "OK if I put this here?" Frank says as he motions to our table. We stumble all over ourselves, "of course", "absolutely", "yes sir". The bottle rests on the checkerboard tablecloth and a last minute tune up ensues.

Baron Browne is last to the stage, throwing off his coat and hastily unloading the gig bag off his shoulder. A deceptively simple bass groove begins, and four, three, two, one - they're off. Tom Coster's Hammond B-3 organ floods the small club's brick walls with warm old school chord work. Frank comps along effortlessly, the solos coming with such a small amount of finger movement, it makes no visual sense against the river of notes that are pouring out. That is the power of sweeping. Steve Smith delivers a clinic on the use of the traditional grip on the high hat and snare, and serves as our MC for the evening. With a casual sense of humour and at the same time a seriousness about the music, Steve guides us through the tunes like we were sitting in his living room. It is evident these guys know each other well and enjoy each other's musical company.

Vital Information is doing two shows this nite. The encore is over, and we must leave. My sons and myself walk out of the small club and see the line waiting for the second show, extending down the full length of the alley onto the street. We know what these people are in for. Walking out onto the bustling streets of Georgetown, still high off the calibre of the performance, it feels like we are in another place. My younger son suddenly remarks, "we just saw the best musicians in the world". I couldn't have said it better.

Get Vital Information's double live CD :

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