Kenny Rankin: A Song for You (2002)
Veteran vocalist Kenny Rankin, in my opinion, has been variously misclassified, misassigned in terms of where he belongs as a performer for far too long. The knee jerk reaction to his material, on record and in concert, is that he was more a soft rock singer than a singer/songwriter, with occasional performance references to entries from the Great American Songbook. But even a cursory look at the play list of many of his albums doesn't support that assessment. Even those albums which he recorded for his Private Music label are more than just spotted with standards. Methinks reviewers confuse substance with technique. Rankin likes to play with the songs he sings. He changes notes, alters phrases and does things that are unexcepted.
And with his tender, flexible, expressive and very personal voice he is fortunate to have, why shouldn't he exercise as much artistic latitude and discretion as the music will allow? His "Where Do You Start?" is eons away from Shirley Horn's but just as valid. And since he sings the cream of the compositional crop, opportunities for discretion and latitude abound. Listen to his spacing and the way he manipulates (using the word nicely) "When the Sun Comes Out". Similarly on "Then I'll Be Tired of You" as his voices wends in and out of the clean strummed, you can hear every note guitar strumming of guest guitarist Russell Malone.
Also, the orchestrations of Alan Broadbent and John Beasley are perfectly attuned to support Rankin's special way of doing the music. The singer also relies heavily on the guitar to provide his instrumental padding and harmonies. Spinozza does most of the work here. But Rankin reminds us he was more than a credible guitarist by accompanying himself on "A Song for You". Chris Potter's tenor adds quite a bit to the interpretation of "When the Sun Come Outs". But for the most, horns don't have a big role in this session.
Over his career, Rankin has been compared to this singer and to that one. But he needs no validation through comparison. His voice and his technique are sufficient evidence of his considerable talent. Recommended.
Track Listing: When the Sun Comes Out%; Where Do You Start^; `Round Midnight; She Was Too Good to Me*; Spanish Harlem^; Then I'll Be Tired of You^; The Way You Look Tonight; I've Just Seen a Face; Love Walked In%; A Song for You
Personnel: Kenny Rankin/vocals/guitar*; David Spinozza - Acoustic and Electric Guitars; Christian McBride - Bass; Lewis Nash - Drums; John Beasley - Synthesizer/Orchestrations; Roy Hargrove# - Trumpet; Chris Potter - Tenor Sax%; Russell Malone^ - Guitar