Steve Smith was originally drawn to the drums by hearing marching bands in parades as a child in his native Whitman, Massachusetts (20 minutes from the Zildjian factory). At age nine, in 1963, Smith began studying the instrument in earnest with local teacher Bill Flanagan, who played in big bands in the swing era. Smith's early inspiration at this time was drawn from the great drumming stars of the big bands such as Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Louie Bellson and Kenny Clarke, among others. In particular, regular trips in his youth to The Boston Globe Jazz Festival, where he first saw and heard his idols, made a special impact on his musical endeavors.
Smith performed in the usual school band program and garage bands while in his teens, but also began to broaden his performing experience by playing in a professional Brockton concert band and even the big band at the local college, Bridgewater State. After high school, Smith began studying music at the famed Berklee College of Music in Boston in 1972. There he received valuable instruction from such renowned teachers as Gary Chaffee and Alan Dawson. His drumming influences at this time came to include such notables as Tony Williams, Billy Cobham, Lenny White and Steve Gadd.
In 1974 Smith's professional career began in full, at 19 years old, with his tenure in the Lin Biviano Big Band, which he toured and recorded with for the next two years. At that same time he also performed with bebopper Buddy DeFranco and was a member of free-jazz group The Fringe featuring George Garzone. In 1976, Smith began his association with jazz fusion by joining violinist Jean Luc Ponty and recording the album Enigmatic Ocean (Atlantic 1977), which also featured guitarist Allan Holdsworth. However, it was while touring with rocker Ronnie Montrose a year later that Smith was asked to join the popular rock band Journey which brought his playing to the attention of a young rock audience.
With Journey, Smith toured around the world and recorded ten successful albums including the immensely popular Escape (Columbia 1981) and Frontiers (Columbia 1983), both of which garnered the band many Top 40 hits. Smith's inventive timekeeping, stadium sized tom-tom fills and deep sense of the groove enabled him to produce some of the most critically acclaimed rock drumming while at the same time propelling the band to much popular success. In 1985, however, the group began to change their direction and Smith left to pursue his original passion, jazz, and to continue his developing career as a session player. Over the past 15 years Smith has played on many hits with such diverse artists as Mariah Carey, Bryan Adams, Zucchero, Claudio Baglioni, Tommy Shaw/Jack Blades, Ray Price, Smap and Savage Garden.
Smith began leading his own fusion band Vital Information (currently featuring Tom Coster- Hammond B-3, Frank Gambale- guitar and Baron Browne- bass) in 1983 while still a member of Journey. This powerful ensemble allowed Smith the opportunity to fully develop his uniquely robust drumming style and express his developing concept as a band leader. His explosive solos and intricate timekeeping served to gain him much acclaim from sources such as Modern Drummer Magazine, whose readers voted him the #1 All-Around Drummer five years in a row. Vital Information's '97 release "Where We Come From" was voted Best Contemporary Jazz Recording Of 1998 by the Association For Independent Music.
Smith has also maintained an extensive touring and recording career, appearing with many jazz luminaries such as Mike Mainieri's group Steps Ahead. This band, which included virtuosos such as Michael Brecker and Mike Stern, was one of the most successful of the '80s electric jazz groups and Smith contributed greatly to their tight, energetic sound for seven years (1986-1993). Other high profile jazz touring and/or recording gigs that have filled the drummer's schedule include such artists as Ahmad Jamal.