Featured Artist: Phil Ranelin

CD Title: Inspiration

Year: 2004

Record Label: Wide Hive

Style: Contemporary Jazz

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.

Review: With the release of Inspiration, Phil Ranelin can conclusively be included in the pantheon of jazz treasures. This trombonist holds a clinic with his latest album, showing the youth the way it is to be done. He combines improvisation with composition to form a unique and impressive performance. To further the cause, Inspiration also features guest appearances including Pharoah Sanders.

It is stimulating to be able to hear music at such a high quality. The instrumentation is Mr. Ranelin on trombone, plus rhythm section and a section of mixed reeds. With this assortment and unique orchestration a full-bodied big-band sound is achieved. From the first tune on the album, “Freddie’s Groove”, one can hear remarkable harmonies and internal moving lines. Similarly, “One For Johnson” achieves the same harmonic complexity. “Black on the Nu”, however, is straight-ahead swing. But yet again Mr. Ranelin’s compositional skills create a big-band sound with half the instrumentation. Finally, “Shades of Dolphy” features a theme that is more akin to a big-band shout chorus than a small group combo head.

The improvisations are equally skilled. It is always a thrill to hear a master at work. While some artists achieve fame with their unique sound, or rhythmic or harmonic complexity, or unequalled agility on their instruments, the truly matured musician is able to combine all these things and incorporate them into every solo. Mr. Ranelin accomplishes this with near perfection. With the rest of the band matching style and mood, the atmosphere of the album is one of cooperation rather than competition. Additionally the guest soloists (all saxophonists) provide personalities apart from the identity of the rest of the band. Mr. Sanders’ solo is particularly distinctive (as is to be expected) with his fat, singing lines which progress into a slightly more adventurous solo.

The atmosphere of the album can not simply be attributed to the compositions. The rhythm section also plays a large part in keeping things in sync. Whether it is a basic Latin mambo behind a vocal (“Beyond a Memory”), post-bop up-tempo (“Horace’s Scope”), ballad waltz (“HT’s Waltz”), or swinging big-band chart (“Black on the Nu”) the rhythm section never falters.

Inspiration is in essence a tribute to the masters by a master. Its spirit carries memories of the George Russell groups that held their arrangements and organization in such high regard. However, the humorous side of Mr. Ranelin also comes through in his solos and riffs. The compositions have the feeling of being created as opposed to composed. Inspiration is an example of everything that jazz has the potential to be: intelligent, comical, exhilarating, cooperative, and most important – inspirational.

Record Label Website: http://www.widehive.com

Artist's Website: http://www.ranelin.com

Listen : @ amazon.com

Reviewed by: Scott Gotschall

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