Jazziz magazine writes that Nelson Rangell is "an artist of depth, a master of song, and an improviser non pareil." The Times of London recognized "his extraordinary facility on a range of instruments and his undoubted virtuosity," adding that Nelson is "one of fusion's most accomplished exponents." Such praise is a confirmation of what contemporary jazz fans have known since the Denver-based saxophonist emerged in the late '80s—that Rangell is one of the most exciting and diverse performers in the genre, equally adept at soprano, alto, and tenor saxophone, as well as being a genuine virtuoso on flute and piccolo.
Rangell is the fourth child in a musical family. His brother, Andrew, is a well-known concert pianist living in Boston, and his other brother, Bobby, lives in Paris and is a leading woodwind player in European jazz and studio scenes. His sister, Paula, is a professional singer living in New Orleans.
Rangell first played the flute at the age of 15. Within six months he was studying both classical and jazz music at The Interlochen Arts Academy, a national camp for gifted music students. He went on to attend The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. As a student, he twice won Down Beat magazine's prestigious National Student Recording Awards competition both as best jazz and best pop/rock instrumental soloist. After college, he headed to New York in 1984 to pursue his career. The next four years were spent paying his dues—sitting in and playing alongside some of the world's greatest contemporary jazz musicians, including Hiram Bullock, Jorge Dalto, Eric Gale, Richard Tee, Jaco Pastorius, David Sanborn, and many others. He also found occasional employment with the legendary Gil Evans Monday Night Orchestra and worked on many commercial jingle recording sessions. Rangell's 1987 debut album was released on Gaia/Gramavision Records, but soon thereafter he was signed by Larry Rosen and Dave Grusin at GRP Records.
Rangell recorded eight CDs at GRP. He says that his stated ambition throughout these endeavors was "to grow and evolve as a player and artist while making music that people can easily relate to in a form that is substantive." With his musical armory encompassing flute, piccolo, alto, tenor, and soprano saxophone as well as whistling, he was well equipped to fulfill this desire. He has recorded with The Rippingtons, Chuck Loeb, Patti Austin, Tom Browne, and The GRP All Star Big Band and is featured on Don Grusin's Grammy-nominated CD The Hang. Though Rangell has recorded mostly in the contemporary/pop and smooth jazz formats, The Times of London notes that "heard live a much more robust and idiosyncratic player emerges." In the late '90s, Rangell continued his career with Shanachie Records and has now released fourteen CDs nationally and internationally.
Now with Koch Records, Nelson Rangell has recorded two wonderful new CDs in less than a half a year. His first Christmas CD, All I Hope For Christmas, has been well received and has been called "an instant holiday classic" by Jazzreview.com. Rangell's newest Koch Records release is titled My American Songbook (Vol.1) and is his most exciting, unique, and artistic recording to date. Nelson Rangell plays ten new arrangements of American classics as diverse as Leonard Bernstein's "America" from West Side Story, The Appalachian Bluegrass fiddle hoedown "Freda," and Earth Wind and Fire's "That's The Way of The World." My American Song Book will break new musical ground for Rangell as he continues his path of artistic growth and evolvement.