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Nelson Rangell: My American Songbook Vol. 1

Saxophonist/flutist Nelson Rangell explores the rich American musical landscape on My American Songbook (Vol. 1) (Koch), skillfully improvising through classics spanning a range of styles and finding new ways of presenting well-known songs. A Pat Metheny-esque intro launches the West Side Story classic “America,” here softened with flute as the lead voice. Soprano sax and music-box effects render Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” delicate and dreamy, while cinematic strings provide a lush opening to the bluegrass tune “Freda,” which transforms into a sprightly dance track. Rangell gives “Billy Boy” a snappy, jazzy reading, exhibits his talent as a whistler on Hampton Hawes’ “Sonora” and combines “In the Wee Small Hours” and James Taylor’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” in an intimate medley, bathing his lyrical sax lines in keyboard-produced atmosphere. Rangell closes the album with the anthemic “Don’t Forget Those Forgotten,” making a statement about the destitute. After this strong collection, I can’t wait to hear what Rangell does on Volume 2.

Originally Published