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Album Review

Perseverance is the fourth recording on Wide Hive by trombonist and composer Phil Ranelin. His previous outings for the label have articulately showcased his unique voice on his instrument and as a composer and arranger, and his strong grasp of the jazz tradition. In addition to his solo work, Ranelin has been very active as member of the Los Angeles-based transcultural, multi-generational collective Build an Ark, and reunited with Detroit's legendary the Tribe collective, with Wendell Harrison and Marcus Belgrave, on the album Rebirth. Ranelin has been a nearly constant presence on the 21st century jazz scene, even after needing five years in the early 2000s to recover from a severe automobile accident). The issue of Perseverance is, in many ways, the culmination of his long journey in jazz. Among its core contributors are percussionist Big Black and bassist Henry "The Skipper" Franklin — the latter known best for his work with the Black Jazz imprint — tenor saxophonist Kamasi Washington, pianist Mahesh Balasooriya, and drummer Tony Austin, with a few guests. Ranelin uses a multi-generational band to articulate his vision of jazz. This music is straight-ahead, though that term means something multi-faceted for Ranelin. His tone is golden and warm throughout, full-voiced and lyrical. Spiritual jazz bookends the album in its longest tracks, "In Search Of the One" and "A Tear for Alimna." The players are tightly focused on a modal groove with Ranelin and Washington engaged in gorgeous interplay with killer work from Black and Franklin, especially on the latter tune, which also features a stellar bass clarinet solo by Louis Van Taylor. The Afro-Latin "Song for Velader" contains beautiful front line work. The Spanish-tinged "Moorish" is a post-bop exploration of flamenco and Sephardic music with stellar conga work from Black. On the ballad "Within Her Smile," his trombone literally sings against Franklin's lilting bassline. The uptempo "Mystic Destiny" with its knotty head swings like mad, and the lyric hard bop tribute to J.J. Johnson, "One for Johnson," features excellent rhythm section work and a Ranelin solo in the vein of the cut's subject. Ranelin's compositions and charts are expressive, but are free of unnecessary musical verbiage. Ranelin and his ensemble are completely committed on Perseverance, where disciplined technical craft, and expansive melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic possibilities are presented as a musical language. Combined together with his requisite empathy and subtlety, this album defines Ranelin as a true jazz master.


Born: 1940 in Indianapolis, IN

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Trombonist Phil Ranelin was one of the Detroit jazz scene's unsung heroes, releasing several excellent, politicized albums that blended post-Coltrane avant-garde jazz, post-Bitches Brew psychedelia, hard bop, funk, and African rhythms. Ranelin was born and raised in Indianapolis, and later moved to New York and then Detroit, where he started out as a session man for Motown artists like Stevie Wonder. In 1971, along with saxophonist Wendell Harrison, Ranelin co-founded a band, magazine, and record...
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Perseverance, Phil Ranelin
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