On From the Round Box, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane continues to create a personal ensemble sound — a combination of the attack of Miles Davis' last great acoustic band and the bold and complex rhythms borne of the years Coltrane and trumpeter Ralph Alessi put in with alto saxophonist Steve Coleman.
But as on Coleman's less successful outings, the best playing can't outweigh marginal material and questionable tune placement. The opening cut, far from grabbing the listener, is a plodding Alessi original, "Social Drones" (RealAudio excerpt). The tune features fine soprano sax playing from Coltrane, but it lacks direction.
Coltrane invites comparisons to his late father, John Coltrane, by invoking the sound of the elder's legendary 1960s group on "Word Order" (RealAudio excerpt). Pianist Geri Allen, who plays on most of the record, cooperates by invoking the sound of McCoy Tyner, the pianist in the '60s Trane quartet.
Allen shows off her considerable post-bop chops on saxophonist Wayne Shorter's "Blues à la Carte" (RealAudio excerpt), and her comping style suits Coltrane's fluid soloing.
In general, the band, which also features bassist James Genus and drummer Eric Harland, plays nicely throughout. But that's exactly the problem. Nice isn't enough for a CD.