Phil Ranelin: Inspiration

When trombonist Phil Ranelin defected from Detroit’s Motown studio sessions to the West Coast in the ’70s, he added new influences and mentors culminating in the release of Inspiration (Wide Hive). Since those who advanced his career include the likes of J.J. Johnson and Freddie Hubbard, it’s surprising that the nonet he fronts contains no other brass; even the four guests are all saxophonists. That’s not a complaint, as Ranelin’s arranging skills utilize the reed players in the combo who are skillful doublers, and he knows how to voice the various colors at his disposal, from trombone to bass clarinet, plus a variety of percussion. Among the guests, Wendell Harrison contributes a great tenor solo on “Beyond a Memory,” a tune Ranelin should not have wasted his fine voice on simply because it’s not made for singing. Pharaoh Sanders enlivens “This One’s for Trane,” and the three-part suite for Eric Dolphy contains the most exciting sounds, with Michael Session on alto sax and the band engaging in free-for-all swinging over Latin rhythms.