Since a near-fatal automobile accident in 2005, trombonist Phil Ranelin has been encouraged and inspired to do more recordings with his West Coast friends. Since leaving Detroit and his association with Tribe, Ranelin's soul searching and clearly enunciated melodic ideas on a difficult instrument have vaulted him to star status among fellow 'bonists, and all the reasons why are heard during Living a New Day. He's chosen some veteran players like keyboardist David Matthews, guitarists Calvin Keys or Carl Lockett, drummers Donald Bailey or Josh Jones, and the oft-neglected vibraphonist Roger Glenn as helpmates. Ranelin's style is a crossover between the Motown-flavored funk he grew up with, more progressive modal jazz à la John Coltrane, and bop. It's a very cohesive band of disparate parts brought into a unified whole, with Ranelin's strong playing front and center. Some lengthy material is here, like the title track (plus an additional alternate take) bearing a strong resemblance to Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay," while the magnum opus "Escapology Maximus" drones on in swelling organ tones and Ranelin's floating horn before finally jolting into bop. The most focused music here is "Metamorphosis" via the gliding vibes of Glenn and exotic piano phrasings by Matthews. Ranelin includes light bossa, a tick-tock beat jam in 15/8, easy swing, and the singing tone of the trombonist. There's plenty of music to appreciate and enjoy, but one still gets the sense Phil Ranelin is holding his loaded hand close to his vest, and has many more trump cards to play.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos