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A Fireside Chat with Phil Ranelin

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Loyalty and Los Angeles are seldom companions. However, Phil Ranelin's loyalty to the City of Angels is not confined to a championship banner. His fidelity can be measured by his acute sense of brotherhood and community. Actively involved in contributing to the tradition, Ranelin's life mirrors his music, principled, cultivated, and perpetually progressive.

All About Jazz: Inspiration is your tribute to those who have inspired you.

Phil Ranelin: The title is pretty fitting because I think I was inspired by my involvement with a lot of the people that are icons in the music. Freddie Hubbard - his inspiration was the opening tune on the CD called "Freddie's Groove." The music is all original music dedicated to John Coltrane, J.J. Johnson, Horace Tapscott, and Eric Dolphy.

AAJ: Inspiration also features local cult hero Michael Session.

PR: It was fitting for him to be on the Dolphy tribute since he is an L.A. resident and one of his inspirations was Eric Dolphy along with John Coltrane. That is why he is on "Spirit of Dolphy" along with Zane Musa, who is an up and coming phenomenal player. I have eight great saxophone players on this CD. I surrounded myself with a lot of reed players. That is the sound that I am hearing right now. I hear horns at this particular time and it's saxophones. I am very pleased with the results.

AAJ: "Horace's Scope" has mistakenly been referenced to Horace Silver.

PR: No, that is Horace Tapscott also. There has been a couple of reviews that I've seen that mistakenly thought that I was referring to Horace Silver.

AAJ: Vibes From the Tribe and The Time is Now! were hip in DJ circles. Inspiration lends itself to sampling.

PR: That wasn't my objective, but they are already talking about one of the songs that I least suspected would appeal to them and that's "Shades of Dolphy." They're really into that. Some of the DJs have concentrated on that. A few guys got pre-release copies and they have aired it a few times already. It has been a pleasant surprise.

AAJ: Eric Dolphy's significance has been furthered by your efforts with the dedication of the Eric Dolphy building at Denker Rec Center.

PR: Exactly, we seized that opportunity. My manager was instrumental in making me aware of the building that already existed. It was sitting there in Eric Dolphy's neighborhood without a name on it. It would be unjust for this building not to be named after the most important figure in this neighborhood. It was a nine month struggle and there was a lot of resistance. Amazingly, there was resistance among the young people in the neighborhood.

They felt that the building should be named for one of their fallen warriors. We had to convince them that this was an international figure and a great role model for kids in the neighborhood. We want to prevent anything negative happening to kids by presenting a role model that grew up and played in the park and went to school and attended church right there in the community. We eventually were successful and it was quite an achievement and gratifying to see it happen.

AAJ: You community involvement also extends to the Thurman Green Scholarship Fund.

PR: Knowing him and playing in bands with him and eventually founding a band together, Thurman Green was a phenomenal musician, composer, arranger, and, I have to say, a great person. There are a lot of great players that fall short on the other side of it. But no one that I know could ever think of saying anything negative about Thurman. His scholarship fund is a wonderful thing that is dedicated to educating young trombonists. We have had some phenomenal youngsters coming along. The first recipient was Isaac Smith and he's made his mark on the music business already. It is a great thing. It is too bad that it is not better attended. I played the last one and we could have stood a few more bodies in there. Next year, I would like to see that place fill up again. It has been held at the union. It is a wonderful cause to educate and present a scholarship to the upcoming musicians in the community.

AAJ: Does an apathetic neglect toward the trombone remain?

PR: Oh yeah, it always has been. It is coming more to the forefront now. I believe J.J. Johnson, who inspired me to even play anything on it, he got their attention. We're still overlooked, but I think we're making progress in terms of being acknowledged as an instrument that doesn't just have to play whole notes and backup to the rest of the section. It is a melodic instrument and has great beauty. It is an instrument that can give you some of everything and is still being explored.

AAJ: The trombone revolution is in effect and you're leading the way.

PR: I appreciate the thought. I am just trying to continue the tradition.

Visit Phil Ranelin on the web at www.ranelin.com .

Photo Credit
Kevin Ramos


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