Trombonist Phil Ranelin is one of those fellows who's been around "forever" -- especially in the Detroit jazz scene -- but hasn't gotten his share of the spotlight. As the enthusiastic critics say, Inspiration will, hopefully, change that. This album, without being a "concept" album per se, weaves together the various strands of Phil R's varied career: Motown session player, hard bop (he's played w/ Freddies Redd and Hubbard), the Afro-centric avant-fusion of the Tribe (featuring Wendell Harrison) and Afro-Latin rhythms. PR has a nicely brusque 'bone tone, with a rippling, full-bodied trumpet-styled approach, and his compositions are well-thought, thoroughly engaging "tributes" to influences/inspirations like Eric Dolphy and Horace Silver (without being heavy-handed or obvious about it), yet leave room for free-ranging yet focused wailing. One point of reference would be the 60s Blue Note hard-bop-leaning-towards-"new thing" sessions that feature larger (6+) ensembles and McCoy Tyner's early & mid-70s works for large groups (i.e., Extensions, Sama Layuca). It's hard to pick out the "high points" as the album is so consistently fine -- his band (w/ guests including Pharaoh Sanders) plays with unity, precision AND enthusiasm -- but my favorite is the tasty Count Basie-meets-Henry Mancini swinger "Black On The Nu." The only sour note struck is.... well, Mr. Phil is, alas, no singer, as "Beyond A Memory" will attest. Aside from that, Inspiration raises the bar on mainstream-ish post-bop album standards, and should be sought-out by fans of large-group acoustic jazz heretofore post-and-haste.
Artist / Group Name:Phil Ranelin
Genre:Contemporary Jazz / Modern
Record Label:Wide Hive
Musicians:P.R.: trombone, vocal; Keith Piddmont, George Harper Jr., Zane Musa, Louis Van Taylor: reeds, flute; Denny Grissett: piano; Jeff Littleton: acoustic bass; Lorca Hart: drums; Taumbu: perc.; P. Sanders, Wendell Harrison, Dayne Dean Stephens: saxophone.