Mark Prince
"Fraction of Infinity"

(Contour Records)
Fraction of Infinity

Review by Brad Walseth

According to his bio, Washington D.C.-based drummer Mark Prince studied at Howard University under Grady Tate, and has since played with a wide range of artists, including keyboardist Andy Milne, flautist James Newton, the touring Broadway show "Dreamgirls," Terence Blanchard, Ronnie Laws, Don Braden, Wallace Roney and the cream of the crop of Latin jazz in the D.C. area. On this first solo album as leader ("Fraction of Infinity"), Prince proves that he is a drummer and composer to be taken seriously, as this fine collection of strong compositions and performances, suggests a young artist talented beyond his years.

The title track starts things off with the drummer's propulsive, yet restrained drumming and hints at Prince's Latin background. The track features pleasing flute by David J. White, elegant flugelhorn by Deandre Shaifer and gracious piano by Federico Gonzalez Pena. The unrushed pace is a welcome respite from more in-your-face Latin numbers and speaks of the composer's maturity. Meanwhile, "Abena’s Last Stand" is a rollicking number with nice changes, tasteful electric guitar by Alvin White and some sparkling soprano sax by David Merlin-Jones. Prince obviously knows personnel and how best to utilize them.

Just when you think you are beginning to figure him out, Prince throws you a curve. "August (For Karen)" features singer Geno Young on a number that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a '70s R&B album. Throw in the groovy funk of "The Grind," the Coltrane-ish "Gnosis," the addictive synth-laden "Friendly Fire," the confident and peaceful emotions of "The Healing" and "Quiet Thoroughfare," a wonderful jazz version of Serge Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 (Dance of the Enchanted)," an instrumental version of "August" and the tom-tom-driven and extremely catchy "Gratitude" which ends the album, and you know you are in the presence of an artist with catholic tastes and the skills to bring his own vision to life.

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