Saturday, June 19, 2010

Phil Ranelin

Phil Ranelin (trombone; b. 1939)
Sounds From The Village: The Phil Ranelin Anthology (Blue Interactions)

Phil Ranelin may be one of the most under-rated trombonist of them all. He is widely known in the jazz circles as one of the co-founders of the TRIBE movement out of Detroit, along with Detroit native Marcus Belgrave (trumpet). The Tribe was a collective which included a magazine, music label and more. But Ranelin's unfortunate infrequency of recording has probably contributed to the lack of notoriety of his superb albums and live performances. Ranelin while influenced by J.J. Johnson probably owes more to trumpet legend Freddie Hubbard, with whom he has worked with on numerous occasions, in addition to the spiritual influence of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy.

Ranelin's first recordings, Message From The Tribe, The Time Is Now and Vibe From The Tribe (all reissued under Hefty Records) are bold and improvising in the realm of late Coltrane and Dolpy records. These albums were wonderful microcosms of 70s jazz. Tracks like "Sounds From The Village," "For The Children," "Black Destiny' and "Time Is Now" all incorporate psychedelia, blues, poetry and African themes, which show Ranelin while influenced by the great legends was also beginning to find his voice. Ranelin would record sporadically throughout the latter 70s and 80s in addition to doing some teaching.

Ranelin returned to recording in the 90s with a series of albums which still included touch of heavy grooves and began to appeal to the underground soul jazz circuit. Albums such as Close Encounters Of The Very Best Kind, Love Dream and Inspiration all demonstrate a distinct voice, growth and well structured vision from the trombonist.

Ranelin recently recorded his first live album, Reminiscence (Wide Hive Records) which spans tour dates from 2002 and 2005. Featuring mostly original material and a few covers of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington as well as his sublime tribute to Eric Dolphy entitled "Shades Of Dolphy", Reminiscence is a killer live album well worth checking out.

Overall, if you are interested in finding other creative trombone players in the same vein as Curtis Fuller, J.J. Johnson and Steve Davis, Phil Ranelin should definitely be on list of artists to seek out. A really great place to start is a Japanese compilation called Sounds From The Village: The Phil Ranelin Anthology (Blues Interaction Inc.; 2004). Sound From The Village covers all the albums above excluding Reminiscence. It's an awesome compilation which really does touch on all the important tracks from his solo records.

Ranelin is still one of those underground artists deserving wide recognition and I hope at some point more people get a chance to hear his records. Ranelin has a voice and vision that really needs to be experienced.

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