The Kennedy Center

Kevin Mahogany


Writing about Kevin Mahogany's arrival in New York at the age of thirty-six, the celebrated critic and author Whitney Balliett said "New female jazz singers seem to appear regularly, but for a long time the space behind Joe Williams, Mel Tormé, and Ray Charles has been empty…there is little (Mahogany) cannot do. He has absorbed Billy Eckstine, Williams, Charles, Al Hibbler, Betty Carter, and Leo Watson. He can sing the blues and he can sing ballads. He can scat. He can sing Monk and Gillespie and John Lewis and Miles Davis, and he can sing soul songs and novelty songs. And he is a startling gospel singer who shouts, hums, bends notes in two, growls, and locks every syllable to five or six notes." Stylists who matured long after the golden era of Tin Pan Alley have developed with pop, soul, and rock music of the sixties, seventies, and eighties.

Mr. Mahogany, born on July 30, 1958 in Kansas City, a historically significant cradle of jazz, is a product of the previous three decades. He grew up in the aftermath of the city's all-night, bawdy, no holds-barred heyday. He attended the Charlie Parker Foundation in his hometown and was teaching clarinet by the time he was 14. He studied piano and became an accomplished baritone saxophonist, performing with three jazz bands while still in high school. At Baker University in Kansas Mr. Mahogany's interest in singing developed and he founded a jazz choir. After graduating from college with a B.F.A. in music and English drama, he led two other groups that focused on the pop-oriented material of contemporary R&B, crossover jazz, and classic 1960s soul music. Mr. Mahogany continued to feel the influence of traditional jazz singers such as Tormé, and Hendricks and Ross. A selection of seldom-heard ballads, bop tunes and blues, recorded with Kenny Barron, Ralph Moore, Ray Drummond and Lewis Nash, appears on Double Rainbow, his debut album (Enja, 1993). The CD received much critical acclaim including "Newcomer of the Year (Penthouse)," and the first of four consecutive designations as the #1 Jazz Singer of the Year (Down Beat Critics Poll). He appeared in the role of Big Joe Turner in Robert Altman's 1995 film Kansas City and the film's original sound track was released on Polygram. Mr. Mahogany's CDs for Warner Brothers include Portrait of Kevin Mahogany (2000), My Romance (1998), Another Time Another Place (1997), and Kevin Mahogany (1996). For Enja he appears on Ballads in Blue (2001) and has also recorded the albums Pussy Cat Dues: The Music of Charles Mingus (2000), You Got What It Takes (1995), and Songs and Moments (1994). Kevin Mahogany can also be heard on 18 other albums recorded on various labels.
Kevin Mahogany