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.