ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Darren Rahn studied piano as a little kid but he moved on from there.
In elementary school, Rahn was handed a clarinet after being told there were already too many saxophone players in his school’s fourth-grade band. Finally, in junior high, he got to play his dream instrument in a jazz band – the saxophone. It was a baritone sax.
“I went from the biggest sax to smaller. In high school, I moved to tenor and later in high school and in college, I added alto and soprano sax,” Rahn said in a phone interview from his home in Denver.
“The moment I started playing saxophone I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt this was what I wanted to do, not only as my passion but for a living.”
One of the premier saxophone players in the “smooth jazz” genre, Rahn will headline a concert Sunday, Feb. 9 at the Crowne Plaza in Albuquerque. Also performing are bassist Julian Vaughn and vocalist Marc Staggers.
Part of the concert will be tributes to the late R&B singer-songwriter Luther Vandross and jazz bass guitarist Wayman Tisdale, who also was a professional basketball player.
“Marc Staggers will do four or five songs. He is a huge Luther fan. He grew up learning Luther’s music in Kansas City. He will do several Vandross songs as a tribute including “Superstar.”
Rahn said he met Vaughn at Tisdale’s funeral.
“Vaughn grew up listening to Wayman so he plays in the style of Wayman, which is very unique,” he said.
At the request of jazz saxophonist Dave Koz, Rahn produced Tisdale’s song “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” A couple of months after the song’s release, it went to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, Rahn said.
“The opportunity with Wayman opened the door for me. He and Dave welcomed me with open arms. There’s a lesson to be had there: Keep going. I put in a good eight, 10 years until then without any big doors opening up.”
Rahn said he produced many songs for Tisdale and the two recorded together on Rahn’s “Talk of the Town” CD.
Rahn also produced Koz’s No. 1 hit “Life in the Fast Lane,” and has produced singles for Najee, Jonathan Butler, Toby Keith and others.