Phil Ranelin
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Phil Ranelin


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"BBC Review-Phil Ranlein: Vibes From The Tribe"

This is a welcome reissue of prime 1970s jazz from post rock/electronica label Hefty. Phil Ranelin was a session trombonist recording with the likes of Steve Wonder before setting up his own Tribe label, home to his own releases (Hefty has also re-released his first effort, A Message from the Tribe) and that of others like trumpeter Marcus Belgrave and drummer Doug Hammond.

Like other contemporary artist run labels like Strata East and Black Jazz, Tribe releases were characterised by a heady mix of post Coltrane free jazz, soul and funk, all informed by a strong political conscience. Soul Jazz have already put together a superb compilation of Tribe material and hopefully this release will trigger some more reissues.

Vibes From the Tribe is a fine record. The title track (here versioned three times, and I'm not complaining) is lusciously, greasily funky and stands in pretty stark contrast to the kind of airbrushed fusion that was in vogue at the time. "Sounds from the Village" is even better (and dirtier), showcasing Ranelin's oily trombone gymnastics and a viciously fuzzed guitar solo. "Wife" features Phil's singing and is oddly reminiscent of Frank Zappa's writing on Sleep Dirt; an affecting, snaking melody topped off with a beautiful solo from the leader, whose playing here has the grace of Bob Brookmeyer coupled with the agility of George Lewis.

"He The One We All Knew" is the obligatory Coltrane tribute and is a trip into the kind of groove based free playing typical of Pharoah Sanders, though only really picks up when the band launch into post bop swing mode in the last six minutes or so, provoking another fine Ranelin solo. Bassist Ralph Armstrong is particularly strong here; his brief solo passages are a wonder of agility and tough lyricism that make me wonder why he's not better known. Other highlights come from the mellifluous flute of Wendell Harrison. Beautiful stuff, and it's good to know that Ranelin is still at work even now. Essential. - Peter Marsh


By John Kelman

While he started out as a Motown session player, trombonist Phil Ranelin left that behind in the '70s, instead pursuing a style that blended post-Coltrane post bop with Afro-Cuban rhythms and harmonies. With Inspiration , Ranelin delivers an album firmly planted in these traditions, paying tribute to a number of his influences and past collaborators, including Freddie Hubbard, Horace Silver, Eric Dolphy and, of course, Coltrane.

Ranelin's nonet combines saxophones, bass clarinet and, on occasion, flutes, to create a rich horn section that blends beautifully with Ranelin's warm trombone. By eschewing the inclusion of more top-heavy trumpets, his brass section avoids the brashness often found in larger ensembles. Still, that doesn't stop Ranelin's arrangements from being absolutely vibrant; his arrangements jump off the page and out of the speakers in an adventurous yet compelling way that is reverent to their sources yet has a vibe all its own. Owing more to the sound of the '60s Impulse! recordings than the more often-emulated Blue Note records of the same time period, Ranelin aims for a more cluttered dense ambience that still manages to be completely accessible.

His trombone playing has never been better. With adventurous ideas and a lush tone that is never brash, Ranelin's solos are soulful, melodic and, at the same time, a little curious, occasionally heading outwards yet never losing site of the material's essence. Tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders guests, appropriately, on "This One's for Trane," and his distinctive, harmonics-laden sound brings back clear memories of Coltrane, over the modal backdrop of rhythm section team Danny Grissett on piano, bassist Jeff Littleton, drummer Lorca Hart and percussionist Taumbu.

And while the influence of Coltrane's modal vamps is evident, so too is a strong sense of swing. "Horace's Scope" and "Spirit of Dolphy" both move at a clip, challenging the soloists to keep up. "HT's Waltz," an early respite from the generally high energy of the record, finds Ranelin playing over a rich combination of reeds and flutes. The only real misstep of an otherwise outstanding collection is "Beyond a Memory," where Ranelin's vocals and lyrics, while serviceable, are on the pedestrian side, which is a shame as the tune itself is solid, with a strong solo by Wendell Harrison, who collaborated with Ranelin in Stevie Wonder's band in the '70s.

Still, one misfire is not enough to detract from an energetic and passionate set that demonstrates Ranelin's strong abilities as a player, writer and arranger. Inspiration clearly refers to Ranelin's many influences, but it also alludes to a deeper spiritual connection that pervades this immensely satisfying set. - All About Jazz

"The Time is Now by Thom Jurek"

Phil Ranelin's first record as a leader is worlds away from his later 1976 offering, Vibes From the Tribe. The Time Is Now is a vanguard jazz record, full of the spirit, determination, and innovation inspired by John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Cecil Taylor, Pharoah Sanders, and Archie Shepp. Recorded in 1973 and 1974 and released at the end of 1974, the set shows Ranelin to be an imposing composer and frightfully good trombonist. The original album contained six compositions that are a deep musical brew of avant-garde improvisation, hard bop jazz esthetics, and soulful melodic ideas that were superimposed as a jump off point for both harmonic and rhythmic (read: Latin) invention. The stamp of Detroit is all over this thing. Tracks like the title and "Black Destiny" reflect the anger and vision of the era, while moving it all in a positive musical direction. Soloists on the set include the rest of the Tribe collective -- Marcus Belgrave and Wendell Harrison -- as well as local players who deserved far more than they received in terms of national recognitions: bassist Reggie "Shoo-Be Doo" Fields, trumpeter Charles Moore, pianist Keith Vreeland, drummer Bill Turner, and others including Ranelin himself. The arrangements on The Time Is Now were ahead of their time, clustering a rhythm section as part of the horn's front line ("13th and Senate" and the title track) and a stylistic angularity that reflected both musical history and futurism in jazz and R&B ("Time Is Running Out" and "Times Gone By"). Tortoise drummer and mastermind has remixed and remastered the entire album (and added three bonus tracks). Its sound and fidelity have changed substantially, but not the spirit or the letter of the music -- a remarkable achievement. The Time Is Now is a must for any vanguard jazz aficionado or anyone interested in the strange, rhythm-oriented evolution of Detroit music. - All Music Guide


Phil Ranelin & Tribe Renaissance LIVE! "Reminiscence" 2009 Wide Hive

Livin' A New Day 2009 Wide Hive

Inspiration 2004 Wide Hive

Vibes From The Tribe 2001 Hefty (Reissue)

The Time Is Now 2001 Hefty (Reissue)

A Close Encounter Of The Very Best Kind 1996 Lifeforce

Love Dream 1986 Rebirth

Vibes From The Tribe 1976 Tribe

The Time Is Now 1974 Tribe

Message From The Tribe 1971 Tribe


Monterey Jazz: 40 Legendary Years (featured on Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower") 1997 Warner Bros

Jazz and Blues Compilation 1997 Lifeforce
("Ya Know What I Mean" – Phil Ranelin Composition)



"Ranelin is an unsung trombone hero.. His nine piece band includes several saxes.. lush horn parts and elegant soloing.. arranged with a natural grace that never seems overcrowded... This One's For Trane stands out as the albums most compelling ascendant scorcher."

Jonathan Zwickel- XLR8R

"Phil Ranelin was responsible for some of the deepest and funkiest jazz of the Seventies..this radical trombonist shows his inspiration is still alive whilst blowing as hard as he did when ' Vibes From The Tribe' first dropped back in 1975"

Andy Thomas-- Straight No Chaser

Phillip Arthur Ranelin was born in Indianapolis, Indiana where he grew up under the influence of J.J. Johnson, Wes Montgomery, Earmon Hubbard, Pookie Johnson, Russell Webster, Willis Kirk, Jimmy Coe and Melvin Rhyne. Ranelin is loved and respected around the globe as a master trombonist of the J.J. Johnson tradition, as former Freddie Hubbard sideman and as co-founder of Detroit's famed TRIBE Records.

Ranelin has studied and played with some of the most highly respected Jazz and classical educators in the business, including professors David N. Baker, Larry Ridley, Nathan Davis, Bunky Green, Dr. Louis Smith and Donald Byrd with whom in 1976 he received the key to the city of Detroit.

Ranelin's Jazz performance credits include: Norman Connors, Ella Fitzgerald, Art Pepper, Teddy Edwards, Gerald Wilson, Vi Redd, Freddie Redd, Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Harold McKinney, Ray Appleton, Roy Brooks, Sarah Vaughan, Larry Gales, Tootie Heath, James Spaulding and Freddie Hubbard with whom in 1981 he appeared on MISTRAL, Japan's #1 Jazz record of the year. As a leader, Ranelin has shared the bill with Stanley Clarke, Christian McBride, Les McCann, Sonny Rollins, David Sanchez, Pharoah Sanders, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Smith, O.C. Smith, Leon Thomas and McCoy Tyner.

As co-founder of Tribe Records, Ranelin launched into uncharted territory for musicians to take charge of their own careers in producing, publishing, managing, marketing and distributing their own musical works of art.

Phil's first Wide Hive release, "Inspiration," features Wendell Harrison, co-founder of the Tribe Records, on saxophone, as well as the legendary Pharoah Sanders.

Phil's last remix album featured Prefuse 73 and many other young, talented producers, and he continues to reach a younger audience. Meanwhile, mainstay jazz aficionados recall Phil's efforts beside jazz greats such as Freddie Hubbard and pop icons The Red Hot Chili Peppers. He recently completed a tour with legendary Detroit-based techno producer Carl Craig.

Phil's newest release Reminiscence is a collection of live recordings over the past few years with his nine piece band, Phil Ranelin & Tribe Renaissance.

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