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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show


Straight No Chaser is the place for jazz lovers (and those who will soon be jazz lovers) to enjoy podcasts with their favorite music and artists. Winner of the 2017 JazzTimes Readers' Poll for Best Podcast, your host Jeffrey Siegel will take you inside the world of jazz, from the new releases to the best festiva;s to remembrances of jazz legends.

The Artistry of Kenny Rankin

Feb 10, 2010

We lost a terrific singer-songwriter last year when Kenny Rankin died in Los Angeles from lung cancer at the age of 69. While he is gone, he will not be forgotten, thanks to a new reissue project appearing a week after what would have been his 70th birthday.

The Mack Avenue label imprint Sly Dog Records is set to release six titles by Rankin Mind-Dusters, Family, Like A Seed, Silver Morning, Inside, and The Kenny Rankin Album, at all popular retailers on February 16, 2010.  All six are currently available for download at online digital sellers (iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic, etc).  

Rankin grew up in New York City and absorbed the many forms of music around him like a sponge. He sang a cappella in the hallways of the same neighborhood that Dion DiMucci and Teddy Randazzo lived in. It would be no surprise to his old friends when doo-wop elements surfaced later in songs like "Roll-A-Round" on the Inside album. A Greenwich Village apprenticeship brought Rankin into contact with producer Tom Wilson in '65. At Wilson's invitation, Rankin played rhythm guitar on "Subterranean Homesick Blues" and "Maggie's Farm" for Bob Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home.

His songs preceded him into the national marketplace: Mel Tormé recorded Rankin's bright waltz "Haven't We Met" on his A Lush Romantic Album of '65 and Helen Reddy took "Peaceful" to the Top Ten in '73.   

Jazz singer Ruth Price booked him many times at her Jazz Bakery performance space in Culver City. She observed a benign shrewdness on Rankin's part: "He liked to be out in the audience as the people filed in; I've never seen anybody else do that. It allowed him to get a real feel for the room and tailor his performances. Price also recognized Rankin's musical worth. "I was a real fan of what he sang," she says. "His intonation was amazing. Most of the time he sang with no vibrato, and when he would jump octaves he'd hit those notes square on the head."  

The Kenny Rankin Album was an important album for me. Recorded in 1976, it was one of the first album of standards, from "When Sunny Gets Blue" to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", that a pop oriented singer recorded. Assisted by Don Costa, who arranged songs for Frank Sinatra, Rankin's work long predates "standards" albums recorded by the likes of Rod Stewart, Linda Ronstadt, Natalie Cole and Carly Simon.