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  • Jonathan Widran

DARREN RAHN, Rock the World

While truly ready to Rock the World with his wildly adventurous, intensely melodic and grooving, sonically ambitious and – perhaps most important of all – spiritual minded latest collection, veteran hit maker (over 25 Billboard $1s and counting) and multiple Grammy nominated saxophonist, producer & mix engineer Darren Rahn is not the only contemporary urban jazz sax great to create a scintillating and transcendent, star studded pandemic era album.

Dave Koz’s A New Day and Michael Lington’s streaming duets collection Alone Together were both amazing works showing fans the kind of amazing creativity artists could achieve even during a time of anxious lockdown. Rahn in fact produced two of the most engaging tracks on the Koz project.

Two years into this intensely life transforming era, Rahn achieves something extraordinary with Rock the World by using his chosen expression of soulful, high powered sax driven instrumentals as a vehicle to reflect not only just how intensely the world has been rocked – but also offer a meaningful path forward on how we can all rock back, overcome the anxious challenges and forge ahead with a sense of love, light and hope.

True to the empowering album title – which has nothing to do with rock and roll but everything to do with changing hearts and opening the spirit to new possibilities – Rahn grabs hold of the harsh realities of the collective moment, then blazes and illuminates fresh rails via the grand divine gifts that he, his core band (including bassist Mel Brown, drummer Tarell Martin and brother Jason Rahn on trumpet), guitarists Randy Jacobs, Allen Hinds, Adam Hawley and Paul Jackson, Jr., his flutist wife Priscilla Rahn and dynamic all-star guests (Brian Bromberg, Dave Koz, Najee, Everette Harp, Brian Culbertson) have been blessed with.

Over the course of five previous hit smooth jazz albums (starting with his debut Soulful in 2004), Rahn has proven himself with a powerful voice on various saxes (mostly tenor) and an imaginative producer with an ever-growing arsenal of retro jazz-soul keyboards (Rhodes, Hammond Organ, Wurlitzer) to bring to the genre (and the radio charts!) an emotionally resonant yet organic sound.

On Rock the World, he adds “master spiritual storyteller” to his list of talents and accolades, starting off with two tunes (the title track and the cathartic “Cry”) that address all that’s been going on, and launching into a freewheeling ten-track narrative (starting with the defiantly hopeful “On Wings of Love”) that find all sorts of romantic, frolicsome and faith based ways to find joy and optimism amidst the difficulties. While the album can be thoroughly enjoyed as a purely earthbound, secular experience, Rahn’s mission is highly spiritual: lighting our way via songs that both manifest and share the joys of faith, hope and love.

Rock the World is one of those rare collections where there are no actual standout tracks – because every track stands out. Though best appreciated as an old school through listen from “Rock the World” to the equally soaring, Christ-centric “Everlasting,” the fun is figuring out which tunes are overtly faith based (the previous hit single “Midnight Sun,” “Infinite Love”) and which are just all for fun party jams (yet for the spiritually oriented, the joy of the Lord prevails there too) like “Weekend Flow” (featuring Bromberg’s trademark buoyancy), “The Perfect Storm” (an otherworldly funky “four tenors” blast with Rahn, Koz, Najee and Harp) and Rahn’s passionate ode to his adopted hometown of Denver, “Funky D.”

Another favorite, the sensual slow jam “Caught Up In You” featuring the gorgeous piano of Brian Culbertson, could be interpreted either way – as an homage to Rahn love for his wife Priscilla (who contributes flute on several tracks) or being caught up in the Spirit of God. Either way, everything on Rock the World is about love, light and the sacred grooves and melodies which shine us towards a brighter day.


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