This talented sextet includes leader Theo Saunders on piano, Phil Ranelin on trombone, Chuck Manning on tenor saxophone, Louis Van Taylor on alto saxophone, Henry Franklin on bass, and Kendall Kay on drums. Saunders has assembled iconic jazz compositions in a way so the melodies, harmonies, and forms weave in and around each other and the improvisations are based on a combination of chord changes from each song as well as the forms of each one. In his most recent recording, “Jassemblage”, Theo choses well known jazz compositions from the last half century by Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Joe Zawinul, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Paul Desmond, Bobby Timmons, James Brown, and Oliver Nelson. A native of New York, Saunders has appeared on 50 jazz recordings, 8 as a leader/co-leader, worked with over 130 jazz artists, and written over 100 compositions. Theo has toured 4 continents and more than 20 countries, playing in over 30 prestigious jazz festivals, concert halls, and jazz venues. Saunders has directed Opera and dance productions, cabaret singers, and musical theatre. Theo has composed numerous compositions and scores for dance, theatre, radio, and multi-media productions
Trombonist, composer, arranger, and educator Phil Ranelin has appeared on 20 recordings, 7 as a leader, and has worked as a session player on many Motown recordings, including with Stevie Wonder. Phil co-founded the group “The Tribe” and Tribe Records. Ranelin has studied and played with over 60 jazz artists, and appeared at over a dozen major jazz festivals. Phil has won many cultural awards including acknowledgement from the LA City Council, the LA County Board of Supervisors, the State Senate and Assembly, and the U.S. Congress for his community service and excellence as an artist. Ranelin has played with a half dozen different jazz ensembles and appears in the film “Monterey Jazz: 40 Legendary Years” filmed by Clint Eastwood with other jazz greats. Phil follows in the musical tradition of master trombonist J.J. Johnson, playing modern, melodically rich improvisations with a round singing sound.
Chuck Manning is a jazz saxophonist and semi-conductor process engineer at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Altadena, CA. Chuck has been active in the LA area for over the past 25 years playing with the LA Jazz Quartet, and many of the best jazz musicians in LA. Manning’s style is original, bold, and rhythmic on ballads, and post-bop jazz. Chuck always plays brilliantly, understated, edgy, and with a smart inventiveness. Manning has played or recorded with over 120 jazz artists. Chuck’s recording “Notes from the Real” has a rare sense of integrity and conviction, with a style shared by saxophone greats Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter.
Louis Van Taylor is a multi-talented musician who plays several woodwind instruments, percussion, and keyboards. Louis has played with over 2 dozen jazz, R&B, soul, and pop groups, and appeared on 15 recordings. Taylor is best known for his funky horn work with Kool & the Gang, and has worked with Ray Charles for over 20 years. Louis is an actor and has taught jazz at USC School of Music. Taylor is CEO and President at Rolyatrprd Music in LA.
LA native bassist Henry Franklin, known as the “Skipper” has 24 recordings as a leader, and appeared on over 150 recordings. Henry has recorded on 2 gold records with Hugh Masakela and Stevie Wonder, and has played with dozens of jazz greats at clubs, and festivals across the USA and internationally. Heavily influenced by Hampton Hawes and Harold Land, Henry also studied with bassists Al McKibbon, and George Morrow. Franklin’s earliest playing was with Roy Ayers, Bill Henderson, Carl Burnett, and Elmo Jones. Henry was part of the hot jazz scene in LA from the late 1950’s and held his own with the likes of Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Billy Higgins, and Scott Lafaro, Franklin has performed with jazz greats Pharoh Sanders, Joe Williams, Sonny Rollins, Bobby Hutcherson, Sonny Fortune, and Milt Jackson. Henry considers himself a bebopper for life and strives to do the best for his love of jazz, America’s only art form.
Drummer Kendall Kay studied at North Texas State University and has been a member of the LA Jazz Quartet, the Acoustic Jazz Quartet, and the Theo Saunders Sextet. Kendall swings with a great sense of time, always playing with a solid, tasteful, and calm style. Kendall has performed or recorded with dozens of jazz artists, and is also a member of the Ron Eschete Trio, and the Peak Experience Jazz Ensemble. Kendall has appeared on over 70 recordings.