Feinstein’s at the Regency, February 14, 2003:
My wife Kathy and I plan a romantic concert event with Kenny Rankin that includes dinner at Feinstein’s at the Regency in Manhattan. I took Kathy on our very first date to see Kenny Rankin at Fat Tuesday’s in Manhattan on October 16, 1986.
We drive into Manhattan on Valentine’s Day, a Friday, and all goes well until the last few blocks, which seem to take forever. After parking, we go into the Regency Hotel to wait for the doors to open at Feinstein’s. We have a pair of cappuccinos in the bar as we warm up from the cold winter’s evening.
We are the first on line and sit right in the front of the stage at a table for five. We have the choice of anywhere to sit and this seems to be the best spot to see the show. Feinstein’s at the Regency is a gorgeous room and the service is top notch. We have a tremendous Valentine’s dinner. We both order tonight’s holiday specials. Kathy has Cupid’s Delight and I have Love Potion #9.
A delightful couple, Dorothy and Steven from New Haven, soon joins us. Dorothy has surprised Steven with this Valentine’s concert at Feinstein’s. Dorothy is smartly dressed, all in red, for the holiday.
A fifth person soon joins us, Barbara. After talking to Barbara, we find out she is from Mexico City and is here on business. She possesses that certain Latin charm and beauty, and is very composed and professional. She has never heard of Kenny Rankin and we assure her she is in for a treat.
Kenny Rankin takes the stage at 8:57 P.M. He is sharply dressed in a blue suit, white shirt and shiny gray necktie. His first song is sung acappella. I believe the title is, “Always.” The tune starts slow for the first two verses then Kenny picks it up with finger snapping and hand clapping. This is a great musical start showing confidence and poise. Kenny introduces the trio for tonight as: Warren Oates on drums and David Fink on standup bass.
We had signed Kenny Rankin’s guestbook asking if he would play our song, “Haven’t We Met.” Kenny plays that song next. This live version is bright, clean and reminds us of our early days of courting and starry-eyed romance. I hold Kathy’s hand so very tightly. The drummer’s brushwork is slick and crisp. The bassist takes a great solo on the standup. Kenny displays great vocal control with super scat phrasings.
The next song, “Round Midnight,” is on the current CD, A Song For You. Kenny describes this tune as “dirgy and morose.” The drummer utilizes the reverse stick on the snare for that succinct attack level and is sharp on the hi-hat. The bass is full with excellent sustain notes. Kenny exhibits exquisite vocal control, beautiful chord passages and finger style technique on the guitar. David Fink takes another great bass solo. He plays sliding descending bass chords, clearly articulated scales with arpeggio bursts for creative contrast with excellent control. A dissonant chord ending leaves everyone amused.
The next composition, “She Was Too Good To Me,” is slow and soothingly melodic. The intro is genuinely sincere, followed by a sensual ballad that is very expressive. The melody is sweet with excellent changes. Kenny displays superior vocal vibrato. The bass is purposely quiet in the background. The drummer strikes big sizzle cymbal accents complementing his very competent brush technique.
Song five is the first song on the latest CD called, “When The Sun Comes Out.” The song is very light and personable, with great facial gestures from Kenny. This song has a great chord melody and interesting melodic development. The bass is very steady and supportive and Warren Oates uses his brushes primarily on the cymbals for a different creative effect. David takes a bass solo with a bow for an unusual and tasteful change.
For the next song, Kenny switches to piano. Kenny notices me taking notes and mentions this to the audience. He wonders out loud if I am stealing his riffs. I tell him I am doing a review. Kenny comes over to me and introduces himself. “Hi, I’m Kenny.” I respond, “Hi, I’m Jeff.” He adds, “You’re with your honey tonight, this is honey night!” This gets a chuckle from the sold out crowd. Kenny performs his tremendous version of “I’ve Just Seen A Face” from The Beatles. His version is markedly slower or serenade-like. Excellent, excellent version! He sings, “This mic is falling,” as the boom stand mic slowly sags down from his mouth, very funny indeed.
For the next musical entry Kenny Rankin tells of his upbringing in New York’s Washington Heights and his early love for a woman, Evon. He describes her as his first wife and that they are still on good terms personally. He goes into the song, “Spanish Harlem.” We are swooning over his silky smooth vocal delivery that clearly illustrates ingenious scat and skillful vibrato control. This is very romantic indeed. Warren excels with his brush control, chimes, sizzle cymbal accents and then very creative finger touch playing on the trap set for dynamic effect.
The next song is from the writing team of Marilyn and Alan Bergman, “Where Do You Start.” This tune has solo guitar and vocal and is a sensual, slow and sweet ballad. This composition is extremely sincere and VERY romantic. The trio exhibits superior musical dynamic control. The next musical anthem is preceded by a long solo guitar intro. Kenny plays one of his all time creative musical interpretations, “Blackbird,” from The Beatles. This is incredible and gets me all goose bumps. Kenny has excellent finger style guitar technique with outstanding melodic chord changes.
The tenth musical entry is a tribute to a two-man group Kenny saw frequently in San Francisco. He felt they were tremendous then and still remembers them now in the song, “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To.” There is just a walking bass and vocal. David Fink takes a tremendous walking bass solo with descending slide notes. Warren adds brushes so soft and delicate, what touch!
The next song is from Sam Cooke, “(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons.” We again are all swooning collectively. The delivery is slow and deliberate. There is lots of space and soothing melodic chord development. The bass notes and drummer’s brushes are discretely backing for a maximum complementary effect. Kenny executes very melodic scat vocals with a delicate touch that is increasingly sincere and romantic.
The next song is on piano. Kenny says, “I had a plan, but I made my first mistake and ended up in Kennyland!” The song, “Friends,” is nice and sweet with a tremendous melodic progression. He sings, “I’m so glad we are friends,” in reference to his former wife, and then he adds, “You can start by giving me my house back!”
The next song is, “Birembau,” from the 1974 Silver Morning LP. Kenny describes a bow and gourd instrument that is the inspirational source for the song content. There is an excellent guitar solo. The bass line is strong and distinctive with an outstanding solo. Warren Oates utilizes a shaker and creative cymbal work with his brushes.
Kenny pauses and pays tribute to the great Irish tenor, Ronan Tynan, who is in the audience. We all give a loud round of applause. He re-introduces the trio: David Fink on Bass and Warren Oates on Drums. The next song is Kathy’s favorite on the new CD, “The Way You Look Tonight.” This Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields composition has excellent melodic development and distinctive vocal control with scat compliments. The tune is clear, bright and snappy with excellent brush control from Warren.
The last song, “Before The War,” has not been played in 30 years, since Vietnam. This is a very poignant protest song about those times as compared to our present political situation. Kenny employs excellent finger style technique. He sings, “Come away Melissa, before we had the war.”
Kenny Rankin dazzles us throughout the night. His silky smooth vocal delivery and incredibly unique song style is like none other in the world. He is a true romantic that often has us swooning and is the absolute prefect choice for a Valentine’s Day celebration.
Kathy and I have a truly memorable experience. Dorothy and Steven are beaming with joy! Barbara says he is incredible. She was very impressed. Feinstein’s at the Regency is a uniquely special locale to see a great show. The food and ambiance is quite unparalleled. I recommend it highly!
Happy Valentine’s Day 2003!
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