Singer-Songwriter Kenny Rankin at Scullers Jazz Club
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The last date listed for Singer-Songwriter Kenny Rankin was Thursday January 22, 2009 / 10:00pm.
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In a remarkable recording career that spans three and a half decades, Kenny Rankin has established an impressive set of creative credentials, as an insightful songwriter, a distinctive guitarist and, above all, a world-class singer possessing an uncanny ability to cut straight to a song’s emotional heart.
It’s the latter aspect of Rankin’s multifaceted talent that’s spotlighted on his Verve recording, “A Song for You” on which the veteran stylist applies his singular interpretive skills to an artfully assembled set of songs drawn from a variety of sources, with sublimely sympathetic instrumental support from some of music’s most respected players.
While his supple, pristine tenor has earned him status as a singer’s singer, Rankin’s songwriting talents have been widely recognized by his peers. For example, his In the Name of Love inspired a memorable version by Peggy Lee, while his Haven’t We Met has been cut by a number of jazz and pop artists including Carmen McRae and Mel Torme. Other Rankin compositions have been covered by a diverse assortment of artists.
Growing up in the multicultural hotbed of New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, he absorbed a broad array of musical influences, from AfroCuban to Top 40 to Jazz to Brazilian. As a teenager, the budding artist signed with Decca Records and released a handful of singles. A few years later, he signed with Columbia Records, and found himself playing guitar on Bob Dylan’s landmark 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. Not long after, he performed on The Tonight Show, whose host Johnny Carson became such a fan that Kenny was ultimately invited to appear on the show more than 20 times. Carson even contributed liner notes to Rankin’s 1967 debut LP Mind Dusters, which introduced his much-covered pop standard Peaceful. That album’s mix of original tunes and outside material would continue to yield rewarding results on such subsequent releases as Family, Like a Seed, and Inside.
Rankin’s 1975 album Silver Morning featured a popular reworking of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” that so impressed Paul McCartney that he asked Rankin to represent himself and John Lennon when they were inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame. 1976’s much-acclaimed The Kenny Rankin Album was recorded live in the studio, and teamed the singer with a 60-piece orchestra arranged and conducted by the legendary Don Costa to create what many now consider the first contemporary “torch” album; Rankin and Costa continued their collaboration on 1980’s After the Roses.
Through much of the 1980s, Rankin largely concentrated on the live stage, increasingly emphasizing pop and jazz standards using jazz accompaniment. He ended a long break from recording in 1995 with a pair of albums: Professional Dreamer, a collection of standards, and the Brazilian-flavored Here in My Heart, both for the Private Music label.