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Berrie Center at Ramapo College to Present Kenny Rankin’s Eclectic Mix of Jazz, Pop and Rock

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)January 16, 2002

(Mahwah) – Singer/songwriter Kenny Rankin, a virtuoso talent in the worlds of jazz, rock and folk, will perform Friday, February 8 at 8 p.m. in the Berrie Center at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Rankin, who defies labels, performed on Bob Dylan’s 1965 Bringing It All Back Home album, has written songs for Carmen McRae, Helen Reddy and Mel Tormé, appeared more than 25 times on the Tonight Show, and was invited by Paul McCartney to sing in his place when McCartney was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

Rankin’s pristine tenor voice and rhythmic guitar playing incorporate pop, folk and jazz, with a recent emphasis on jazz. “. . . his unusual improvisational skills and innate capacity to deliver a melody with a strong sense of swing stamp him as a consistently appealing jazz artist,” said a reviewer in The Los Angeles Times.

Growing up in the Washington Heights section of New York City, Rankin was exposed to an eclectic range of sounds including the Latin and Afro-Cuban music of Machito, Tito Puente and Cal Tjador, Brazilian artists Joao Gilberto and Luis Bonfa as well as Frankie Lyman, Johnny Mathis and The Beatles. After signing with Decca in 1957, Rankin released a handful of singles over the next several years. Though fame as a recording artist was elusive, he began to make a name for himself as a songwriter. Peggy Lee recorded Rankin’s “In the Name of Love,” making it the title track of her album. Carmen McRae did the same for his jazzy classic, “Haven’t We Met,” which also was recorded by Mel Torme.

In the mid-1960s, a record executive slipped Skitch Henderson a demo of Rankin’s work. He was invited to perform on the Tonight Show and was so well received that he returned more than 25 times over the next two years. Johnny Carson was a fan and wrote the liner notes for Rankin’s 1967 debut album, Mind-Dusters.

It was also during this formative time in his career that Rankin taught himself to play guitar. In 1962 he heard an album by Joao Gilberto and was so inspired by the Brazilian artist that he immediately went out and bought a guitar. Three years later, Rankin was in the studio with Bob Dylan, playing rhythm guitar on “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Maggie’s Farm” for the landmark Bring It All Back Home album. In 1969, Rankin’s second album, Family, established a pattern he would continue throughout his career: dazzling original compositions surrounded by impeccable cover versions of other artists’ songs.

Rankin signed to Little David Records in 1971 and moved his family to California. What followed was a quartet of finely crafted, best-selling albums: Like a Seed, Silver Morning, Inside and The Kenny Rankin Album. Silver Morning contained his stylized version of “Blackbird,” as well as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Penny Lane.” Paul McCartney, impressed by Rankin’s treatment of the Beatles’ material, asked him to represent the group when they were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Rankin performed a medley of Beatles classics during the ceremony.

The Kenny Rankin album teamed the performer with legendary arranger/conductor Don Costa who put the artist in the studio with a 60-piece orchestra to record a live album. Other albums followed including 1995’s Professional Dreamer comprised of Rankin’s interpretations of classics by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, 1997’s Brazilian-flavored Here in My Heart and 1999’s A Christmas Album.

Recently, Rankin was appointed to the advisory board of The Muzak Heart and Soul Foundation, which supports musical education programs in public schools throughout the U.S. In this role, he travels to schools to talk to students and administrators about the importance of music education.

Tickets to the Ramapo College performance are $20, $17 for seniors and $10 for students with a valid I.D.


About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.


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