A native of Denver, CO, Rangell learned how to play flute at the age of 15, and within six months, he was studying music at the Interlochen Arts Academy. Shortly afterward, he learned the saxophone, and in 1979 he won Down Beat's Best High School Jazz Soloist competition. Following his graduation from high school, he attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston; this time, he won the Down Beat contest on the college level. In 1984, Rangell moved to New York. He spent three years in New York playing clubs and working as a sideman, not only on jazz sessions, but also on jingles and pop records.
Rangell finally began his solo career in 1987, releasing To Begin Again on the Gaia label. Two years later, he moved to GRP, where he released Playing for Keeps. His second album became a major contemporary jazz hit, and with each subsequent release, his popularity grew. His next four albums -- Nelson Rangell (1990), In Every Moment (1992), Truest Heart (1993), Yes Then Yes (1994) -- were all popular on the contemporary jazz charts. In addition to recording his solo albums, Rangell was involved in the GRP All-Star Big Band, playing both in the studio and on the road.
Destiny, an album that found Rangell incorporating hip-hop rhythms into his sound, was released in 1994. It was followed in 1997 by Turning Night into Day; Far Away Day appeared three years later. In 2003, Rangell released his 12th album, the typically smooth and eclectic Look Again, followed by a collection of Christmas essentials (All I Hope for Christmas) and the instrumental pop tribute album My American Songbook, Vol. 1. Soul to Souls was released in 2006. ~ Scott Yanow & Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi