One would think that saxophonist Darren Rahn would need a rolodex just to keep account of all of the hats that he has worn playing the roles of solo artist, composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist, music programmer, and his latest addition, a member of Nu Groove Records smooth R&B/soul group, De’Nate’, fronted by keyboardist/programmer Nate Harasim and the beautiful siren Deborah Connors on lead vocals. Rahn stepped forward as a solo artist in 2007 with the release of his debut record, Once In A Lifetime from Nu Groove Records. Two years later and Rahn is still going strong having recently release his sophomore album, Talk Of The Town on Nu Groove’s label. The tracks are representative of Rahn’s frame of mind, proving that he is a connoisseur of fine smooth jazz bouquets.
He enumerates, "When I started working on this record, I really wanted to accomplish a couple things. First of all, I wanted the entire album to have a really cohesive concept something that transports the listener to a really cool place somewhere they can forget about the stresses of life and just relax and emerge themselves into the music. Secondly, I wanted to do an album that was really great from start to finish. I grew up listening to records that were strong all the way through no filler material. A lot of those records were just incredible all the way from start to finish, and I mean everything about them the writing, the performances, the inspiration, the production the whole package. It seems as though it’s harder to find those kinds of records these days, so I wanted to do my best to recreate that on Talk of the Town."
Produced by Rahn, Talk Of The Town features a number of smooth jazz’s finest including pianist Bob James on the track "Easy Does It." Rahn describes, "Having Bob James on my album was a dream come true for me. I have been a fan of his since I was in high school. I never dreamed that I’d get to have him on my own record! I wrote the tune first and as I was writing it, I immediately heard Bob’s piano on it. I had worked with Bob James a few years ago on a Wayman Tisdale track that I produced, and so I gave Bob a call and he said yes. He is such a great guy and his performance on ‘Easy Does It’ took the song to a whole different level."
Returning on Talk Of The Town is Rahn’s twin brother Jason, who plays the trumpet and flugelhorn on the recording. Rahn professes, "Jason and I can practically read each other’s minds, so it was very easy. We are twins after all we played together for so many years that I didn’t need to really say much at all. We also have a very open relationship, so no need for kid-gloves. I did let the producer side of me take the lead, but there wasn’t much to be said. I let him cut loose and then offered a few suggestions and that was it really. As with all the guys on my record, I really wanted his personality to come through. He’s a great musician and his instincts are very good and that made my job real easy."
He expresses, "Working on this record was both individual and collaborative. All of the original songs on this record I wrote completely by myself. This is the first time I’ve written a record by myself and it was very strenuous creatively because I didn’t have that collaboration that sparks cool new ideas during the writing process itself. I did it purposely though because I wanted to really let me own personality come through on this record. But, once the songs were written, then it became a very collaborative effort. Each of the session players and special guests brought so much personality and vibe to the album. In the end, it is the collaborations that make the album what it is. I was fortunate to have amazing session players including Mel Brown, Frank Selman, Ricky Peterson, Michael White, Jason Atkins, and Nate Harasim. And some incredible special guests too Wayman Tisdale, Jeff Lorber, De’Nate’, Tim Bowman, Bob James and my twin brother Jason. I’m so lucky that I had such great guys to work with. It real made the album what it is."
Some of the album’s finery is dependent on the caressing strokes of Rahn’s saxophone like in "Secret Crush," which he recalls that the inspiration for the arrangement came to him easily, "Well, that one’s easy to answer it’s all from life experience, and this song is all about that. It’s about my wife. Before I knew her, I had a huge secret crush on her. We all have a lifetime of feelings and emotions that we’ve experienced. When I recorded this track, I was drawing from those emotions and feelings."
Another exceptionally romantic track is "Our Love," which Rahn advances, "I approached ‘Our Love’ very much the same way as ‘Secret Crush.’ I just drew from the well of life experiences and let those feelings shine through. It’s definitely from the heart, and I am a hopeless romantic I chose to end the album with it because I wanted to leave the listener with a really positive refreshing sound something that makes people feel like everything is going to be alright."
Though Rahn’s smooth soul arrangements are a huge asset in his arsenal of smooth jazz canons, he is also strong at composing dance tracks which motivated him to transform Patrice Rushen’s soft R&B hit "Forget Me Nots" into a jazzy-funk romp. He admits, "This song is just one of my favorites of all time. It has a great groove, a great hook and is so memorable. It just sticks in your head. I’ve wanted to cover it for a long time. When I recorded it, I paid special attention to the melody. Patrice’s melody was so beautifully phrased and I wanted to recreate that on the sax. I also need to mention that the bass line on ‘Forget Me Nots’ is one of my favorite bass lines of all times. Freddie Washington’s bass on the original is legendary and on my record Mel Brown did an amazing job of paying homage to the original while also putting his own personal sonic stamp on it. He’s an incredible bassist and I’m honored to have him on my record."
Rahn’s gravitation to dance tracks is evident by the music that he enjoys when he’s not listening to smooth jazz. "As a producer, I’m always listening to a wide variety of artists. Mostly outside of the smooth jazz genre I love pop and R&B - Robin Thicke, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys and so many others. I just love great music in almost any genre. I like artists that can write, perform, and have a really good command of their instrument or voice. It seems to be harder to find that nowadays. Everyone I just mentioned can do just that."
Even though Rahn never strays far from smooth jazz’s panoplies, there are new buds in Talk Of The Town that laid dormant in his previous album Once In A Lifetime. Rahn comments, "Talk of the Town reflects a new time in my life. All the music I create stems from my life and I’m in a very different place now than I was on the last record. It’s been a really great time in my life and I’ve brought those experiences and circumstances with me into the music on this record. Every time I write a song I’m trying to keep it fresh and new. I really love taking my previous musical experience and combining it with new ideas to make sure that I am constantly moving forward musically."
He addresses, "The biggest challenge on this record was actually getting it done. I was writing and producing for so many other artists at the same time that it was a challenge to keep everything in check. I wanted to make sure that every project I was working on got my full attention and I had to really plan carefully to make that happen."
Now that Talk Of The Town is out there, Rahn is preparing to incorporate many of the songs from the recording into his live sets. "I will definitely be performing much of the album live. It was intended for that and fortunately, radio’s reaction has been excellent!"
He reveals, "I have several cool performances coming up, including the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards next month and also performances at Art Good’s Big Bear and Catalina festivals with Tim Bowman. I’m also performing several cuts from the new record next month in Reno. I’d love to play on a couple jazz cruises this coming year. That’s still in the works so we’ll see what happens!"
Rahn shows a deep commitment to his solo work, but he never ceases to explore the girth of his multi-dexterity. He is still an active member of De’Nate’, while balancing his solo work and producing other recording artists albums. He claims, "Balancing everything can be a little bit tricky but as long as I think ahead and plan it out it works out fine. There are always a million things going. I just have to make sure that I keep things prioritized to make sure that it all gets done in the right order. I love all of it the writing, producing and performing. I find that I’m the most satisfied when there is a balance between all of these things."
Rahn remembers how he formed ties with the members of De’Nate’, "I met Nate when we worked together on a couple tracks on his last album. We really hit it off and as a result we did a couple gigs together and really had a blast playing together. Then, I met Deb when she came and sang on a gig with Nate and myself. We all have a lot in common and everything just really happens naturally. Deb and Nate were working on the new De’Nate’ record and I played sax on that release. David Chackler at nuGroove Records asked me to do the radio remix of their single ‘Sweet Dreams.’ That’s when they asked me to join the group. I’m really excited about being a part of De’Nate’."
In hindsight, Darren Rahn would not change anything about his life, particularly the connections that he has made in the smooth jazz circuit as he reflects, "There have been many people that have helped shape my destiny so many I couldn’t even begin to name them all. God has blessed me with so many exceptional musicians that are also dear friends. They have been key components in my growth as a musician and as a person."
Darren Rahn is also blessed with having good instincts and a propensity to be creative, which continues to advance. He extends his wings further with each new solo album, the projects that he produces, and the musicians whom he performs with live. He balances these roles with the dexterity of a Cirque du Soleil performer. Each role that he plays is a genuine part of himself, and adds to his dossier of creative gifts.