Guest musicians sit in on selected tracks, giving each a decidedly different flavor. Alvin White adds a scorching electric guitar solo to the dark, moody, Coltrane-influenced 'Abena's Last Stand', which reminds me a bit of the sorts of things Christian Scott is doing these days. Trumpeter Deandre Shaifer beefs up the front line on 'Rite of Passage' and 'Gnosis' - both of which are fine examples of the sort of hard-swinging, advanced, but not avant-garde, type of modern jazz that I associate with artists such as Ralph Peterson, Greg Osby, and Gary Thomas. The Prokofiev piece features trombonist Greg Boyer, who blends nicely with White's flute and contributes a fine solo right off the bat. Here, Prince's skipping Latin-ish groove is so infectious that I forgot about the piece's Western classical roots. The R&B ballad 'August' features Dallas-based singer Geno Young, whose unabashedly romantic soul vocals add an unexpectedly pleasant twist to the challenging modal jazz and jazz-funk sounds that dominate the CD.
Prince and his group flex their jazz-funk muscles on 'Friendly Fire,' and two brief tracks; 'The Grind' and 'The Healing.' What makes all three work is the fact that they are replete with real jazz improvisation and a sense of musical drama - no room for empty musical grandstanding here! The instrumental version of 'August' is pure buttery soul, with Pena's Rhodes and White's gentle tenor out front. White's flute is featured on the ballad 'Quiet Thoroughfare' - a sweet, mellow old school soul-jazz tune. The CD-closing 'Gratitude' - a piano / bass / drums trio - gives a soulful nod to Ahmad Jamal and his classic tune 'Poinciana'.
Mark Prince is definitely a musician to watch, and "Fraction of Infinity" is an extremely well-crafted debut recording; one that displays the sort of broad musical range and thoughtful approach that I normally associate with veteran recording artists.