As a young baritone saxophonist in the Kansas City area, Kevin Mahogany eventually grew frustrated with his limitations as an improviser: he could hear some great solos inside his head, but he couldn't always get them to his fingers and through the horn. He could sing them, though--which convinced him to try another avenue of musical expression. Mahogany is certainly not the first musician to shed his instrument and emerge as a vocalist. But the international success of his debut CD--last summer's Double Rainbow, on Enja--established him as one of the most imaginative and exciting. Mahogany sings in a rich, buried baritone that fits his surname; that, along with the smooth delivery with which he can phrase a ballad, has earned him comparisons with such classic crooners as Billy Eckstine and Johnny Hartman. But crooners don't usually scat, and when they do they rarely display either the fire or the authority that Mahogany has shown, especially in person. At the higher tempos, from middle-bounce swingers up to superheated bebop, his huge voice gains a subtle but undeniable edge, shining like a dark sun. Mahogany will share this spotlight with Chicago vocalist Joanie Pallatto; behind them, pianist Willie Pickens will lead a terrific trio with bassist Marlene Rosenberg and drummer Mark Walker. Their sets, at approximately 9:30 and 11 PM, are part of the Jazz Institute of Chicago's 16th annual Jazz Fair, which this writer helped organize and program. Monday, 6 PM to 12:30 AM, Blackstone Hotel, 636 S. Michigan, 427-1676 or 427-3300.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Allene Matthews.