With Michael Cain at the piano, Lonnie Plaxico on the acoustic bass, and Jeff "Tain" Watts at the drum set, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane makes his recording debut as a leader. From the modern mainstream with each composition the leader's, this session combines ballads and up-tempo romps with a fair amount of rhythmic vivacity. Coltrane plays soprano on two tracks, tenor on the others, adds Ancient Vibrations on three numbers, trumpeter Ralph Alessi on four, and alto saxophonist Steve Coleman on two tracks (Ancient Vibrations is a percussion trio: Junior Gabu Wedderburn plays lead djembe, Jeremiah McFarlane plays djembe, and Clyde Wedderburn plays the djoun djoun).
In performance, Ravi Coltrane is as calm and confident as any veteran. He's gained considerable experience since growing up in the greater Los Angeles area and studying jazz at nearby CalArts. His on-the-job experience includes work as part of a two-tenor quintet with Antoine Roney and later with Craig Handy, a sextet with Gerry Gibbs, and stints with Elvin Jones, David Murray, Geri Allen, Ryan Kisor, Joanne Brackeen, Kenny Barron, and Pete LaRoca Sims.
On tenor, Coltrane's tone is dry and relaxed. On soprano, his approach is somewhat more fluid. "Peace" is a lovely ballad that features Coltrane's lyrical tenor and Plaxico's bowed bass; both maintain a dryness with ample space. Another ballad, "High Windows," features Coltrane's fluid soprano saxophone with a clear clarinet-like approach. "Search For Peace" adds the percussion trio in a highly rhythmic encounter, yet the melodies impel an umbrella of tranquility over the piece. "Inner Urge" is a driving number coupling Coleman's alto with Coltrane's tenor; the exciting rhythmic backdrop provided by bass and drums propels the solo voices. "Mixed Media" is an up-tempo romp that features Coltrane's tenor and Alessi's open trumpet; Ralph Alessi's clear, open tone, vivid imagination, and fluid articulation enhance the session. "When You Dream" is a ballad pared down to tenor sax and piano. Much of the session is performed with only moderate input from the piano, but with intricate bass and percussion rhythms that are performed so as to allow the listener a chance to absorb every nuance. Recommended.