Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
For listeners who have never heen able to make the transition from '40s and early '50s pop to rock 'n' roll, Kenny Rankin and his brand of middle-of-the-road, jazz-flavored pop is still around and easily accessible. Monday at the Cellar Door he brought a crowd in from the cold and snow and warmed them with a 16-song set that included several companion songs performed back-to-back.
Rankin, solidly backed by Peter Marshall on bass and Roy McCurdy on drums, played guitar and sang; he used his voice more as an improvisational instrument freely scatting on the syllables ba-bom than as a vehicle for lyric expression.
His voice, mellow as a trombone and with a silky fluidity, moved over a remarkable range of notes. He sings, for the most part, in his upper register, and his movement into falsetto is imperceptible. In the last recuperative stages of laryngitis, his voice was not as clear-toned as usual, but the additional fuzzy component was not unpleasant.
Rankin approaches songs from a jazz orientation - he is laid back, cool and cerebral; the voice makes interesting music; not gripping lyric interpretations. On a song such as Billy Preston's "You Are So Beautiful" it's hard to believe the emotional content of the words. The song is rendered in a fashion 180 degrees from Preston's aching expression.
Still, for what he does, Rankin is rankin' high marks.