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Meeting the Challenge

Drummer achieves big band sound with 'loose, organic' feel.

September 22, 2000|ZAN STEWART | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

For drummer Jack Ranelli, there is nothing like playing with a big band.

Ranelli, 57, of North Hollywood, has played with some dandies in his career, including one led by the famed Woody Herman in the late '60s. He has also played in small bands with the superb pianist Red Garland and organ maestro Richard "Groove" Holmes, among many others. Big bands, Ranelli says, present a specific musical challenge.

"It's like you've got a tiger by the tail," he said "You're just raging along."

Ranelli was for many years the drummer with San Fernando Valley legend Ace Lane's rehearsal band. After Lane died in the early '90s, the drummer eventually took over the ensemble.

"But I started from scratch with the music," he said. "I loved Ace but I didn't want to play his book. I wanted my own."

Ranelli's big band performs today and each Friday at noon at Crazy Jack's in Burbank, where Stan Hope's group plays Dixieland for the lunch crowd Tuesdays and Thursdays. The drummer gathers such top-drawer area musicians as saxophonists Ray Reed and Carl Randall, trumpeters Jack Laubach and Jeff Kaye, trombonist Bob Enevoldsen and bassist Lou Shoch to offer distinctive charts by Enevoldsen, Rick Hils and others of classics such as "Speak Low," "Girl Talk" and "Jeannine."

On a good day--and there are many, Ranelli said--the band reminds him of those he heard on records when he was a kid: Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Jimmie Lunceford.

"It has that spirit," he said. "We play loose and organic and groovy and fat. This band has personality. It sounds like a real band. It's kind of a spiritual thing--we just show up and do it. It's amazing the way it works."

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BE THERE

Jack Ranelli's big band plays today from noon to 2 p.m. at Crazy Jack's, 4311 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. No cover, no minimum. Call (818) 845-1121.

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IN BRIEF: Tenor saxophonist Ralph Moore, whose vibrant tone buoys his improvisations, makes one of his highly recommended appearances, playing with the quartet Escape From New York, on Saturday at 10 p.m. at Rocco Ristorante, 2930 Beverly Glen Circle, Bel-Air. $10 cover, no minimum. (310) 475-9807.

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Zan Stewart writes about jazz for the Valley Edition. He can be reached at Zansky@AOL.com.

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