Review: By Light from Nelson Rangell

My initial impression after listening to By Light, the latest recording by multi-instrumentalist Nelson Rangell is one word: STRONG! Multiple listens since have only confirmed that.

By Light cover

His sound on alto sax and flute is as strong as it always has been, which is saying a lot. I’ve always considered him a powerhouse on sax and agile and nimble as anyone on piccolo.

His compositions are strong on By Light. I don’t have credits (a huge disappointment/disadvantage of digital music) so I don’t know if Nelson wrote all of them. There is a cover of “Human Nature.” Some highlights include the opening pure pop-jazz gem “Streamline” which is immediately followed up with one of my favorite tracks, the long burning “Tidal Wave.” In the same vein is “Old School,” which is also a classic pop-jazz piece that could have fit on his albums from 20 years ago.

He brings out strong emotion on the tender ballad “Letting Go.” Grab a box of tissues as you remember someone you’ve lost. There’s the soaring “Ali’s Moon” written for his wife.

I’m telling you – this guy practices every day and hasn’t lost a single step from the first album I fell in love with his sound (1993’s Truest Heart). By Light reminds me of why I started enjoying contemporary jazz in the first place. Thanks, Nelson Rangell.

To learn more about this recording, I recommend you check out the world premiere interview with Sandy Shore on SmoothJazz.com Global Radio. Nelson talks about the album’s title, which instrument he prefers, the tracks on By Light, and more.

The Benoit/Freeman topped the chart 25 years ago

The top ten contemporary jazz recordings from the week of Feb. 13, 1994!

The Benoit/Freeman Project
  1. David Benoit and Russ Freeman, The Benoit/Freeman Project
  2. Nelson Rangell, Yes Then Yes
  3. Tom Scott, Reed My Lips
  4. Richard Smith, From My Window
  5. Torcuato Mariano, Paradise Station
  6. Marcus Miller, The Sun Don’t Lie
  7. Yellowjackets, Run for Your Life
  8. Fourplay, Between the Sheets
  9. Gary Burton/Rebecca Parris, It’s Another Day
  10. Charles Michael Brotman, Pacific Rendezvous

Grace

One of the strongest songs I have in my contemporary jazz library is “Grace” from Nelson Rangell’s 1995 recording Destiny. Here’s what Nelson had to say about it in his liner notes from that release:

Grace has a few definitions. Among them is this one I’ve been thinking about: the giving of free and unmerited favor and love … that sure is nice to receive, and a pretty great thing to be able to give. When we extend grace to another, it can only help to make our collective road ahead easier in these complicated times -for truly wc arc all in this together, dependent on one another. Remember to try to “see” the ones beside you, and think of those far away in distant places.

Nelson revisited Grace in one of his latest albums. “Some Next Grace,” from his pop-jazz sax release Red, is a follow-up of sorts. I asked Nelson about grace. He replied:

I think we are in short supply right now…..”Some Next Grace” is a type of follow up and continuation on the theme of Grace. I think that we should try to reflect upon the profound idea and truth that we are often the recipients of Grace that we are hardly aware of, sometimes even totally unaware of. “Some Next Grace”, maybe seemingly almost mundane that actually changed our life early one morning or at 4:12 in the afternoon on a Thursday when by a second we didn’t step in front of a car or make a fateful move or decision for some unknown reason that changed everything, or never knew how close we came to a terrible accident or avoided getting terribly sick — never even having a clue. I hope I will be able to just feel more and proceed with more easy gratitude for each day, for the things I know and the things at work that I don’t. : – )

Nelson Rangell portrait