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
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
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.
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