Press photo from artist website
Kevin Mahogany, who died of a heart attack last month at the age of just 59, was a brilliant jazz singer. Very much in the tradition of great low voices such as Paul Robeson, Billy Eckstine and Johnny Hartman, he continued their legacy while having a very competent, well controlled upper register. Unusually, he was a jazz singer with thorough training in classical grand opera.
Born and raised in Kansas City, always surrounded by jazz, he began in music by studying the baritone sax for several years as a teenager. On entering Baker University, he found that the institution had no vocal jazz course, so he became an opera student and graduated as such. His great breakthrough was his Double Rainbow album with Kenny Barron, which contains what I see as the definitive vocal version of Mingus’s elegy Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love.
He was a wonderful scatter too: a YouTube video shot in Paris has him with just Cyrus Chestnut taking a beautiful walking (almost running!) bass scat chorus on Route 66, a textbook example. Generally, he was a singer who seemed to bring out the best in piano accompanists – and attracted great pianists to accompany him. More recently, he often performed with the tenorist Tony Lakatos.
I was privileged to meet Kevin after his gig at the Pizza Express Dean St a few years ago. He was inspiring, a very warm human being quite ready to discuss what he saw as his problems and frustrations – one of the latter being Tony Bennett never asking him to do a duet. He said he even wrote a blues entitled Tony Bennett Never Calls about that.
As well as performing, Kevin was also a teacher, notably at Berklee and at Miami University
RIP Kevin Mahogany, a great singer, influence and inspiration!
Kevin Bryant Mahogany. Born July 30, 1958, Kansas City, Missouri, Died December 17, 2017, Kansas City Missouri)