Nelson Rangell (Born March 26, 1960) is an American smooth jazz musician and composer originally from Castle Rock, Colorado. Although Rangell is known for his work with the tenor, alto, and soprano saxophone, his primary instrument is the piccolo flute, which he began playing at the age of 15. In his time as a Jazz musician, Rangell has worked somewhat regularly with several well known Jazz artists such as Jimmy Haslip and Russ Ferrante, and has released 15 albums since the release of his début To Begin Again on January 1, 1988.
Although Rangell's parents had no musical involvement, his siblings have also established musical careers; his brothers - Andrew, a concert pianist and Bobby, a leading woodwind player in European jazz and studio scenes. His sister Paula who lives in New Orleans is a singer.
Rangell first played 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 dues"; sitting in, playing alongside, and gigging with some of the world's greatest contemporary jazz musicians including Eric Marienthal, Hiram Bullock, 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.
In the 1980s he was a member of Members Only, a jazz ensemble who recorded for Muse Records.
A succession of albums followed at GRP where he recorded eight CDs, beginning in 1989. His stated ambition throughout these endeavors has been "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 to name a few 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 garnering top radio play and a large audience, The Times notes "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 14 CDs nationally and internationally.