|Trombonist/composer/arranger Phil Ranelin has unique talents in all these areas, admirably displayed in this album. Originally inspired by J.J. Johnson and influenced by his long association with Freddie Hubbard, Ranelin has synthesized a contemporary style, harmonically advanced and rich in expressive nuance.
All of the trombone solos are Ranelin's, except one by guest Steve Turre on "Just Friends" (he also plays shells on the title cut). Ranelin gives us a generous supply of long, well-shaped lines, some humorous downward vibrato and even a little cry on J.J.'s "Lament." This, along with three other cuts, is arranged for five trombones, the four others being George Bohanon, Thurman Green, Garnett Brown, and Maurice Spears of BoneSoir. The intro to "Lament" is actually an original composition, and Ranelin's other originals are all attractive lines, mainly on standard or blues changes, some Latin flavored. His "Full Moon" sounds like it could become a jazz standard itself.
Other fine musicians prominently featured include Tony Lujan, trumpet, George Harper, tenor sax, Larry Koonse, guitar, pianists Jeff Babko and Eric Reed, percussionist Taumbu and bassist Tony Dumas and drummer Ralph Penland, who both lay down the swinging rhythmic foundation for the entire album. This release is a strong statement and should bring Phil Ranelin the wider recognition he deserves.
(This review appeared in the August 1996 edition of L.A. Jazz Scene.)