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JAZZ REVIEW

Mahogany Moves Between Jazz and the Blues

August 09, 1996|DON HECKMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Singer Kevin Mahogany who opened a five-night run at the Jazz Bakery in Culver City on Wednesday was strikingly different from the Kevin Mahogany who appears on his newly released album. Although the talented young baritone with the blues-based style performed a few songs from his debut Warner Bros. recording, there was never any question--as there occasionally is with the recording--about the jazz roots that are the basis of his music.

Mahogany's singing has improved dramatically over the last year, with almost none of the out-of-tune glitches that periodically marred his early performances. Working in a fashion that recalled the solid, dependable singing of Joe Williams, he moved easily across the sometimes slippery linkages between jazz and the blues.

His initial two numbers characterized the range of Mahogany's musical overview. The first was a thoughtful, beautifully articulated reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Double Rainbow," swiftly followed by a hard-rocking rendering of Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'." Despite the utter disparity between the two songs, Mahogany found ways to make them his own, without falling into the stylistic traps that each--in their own unique ways--might have imposed upon him.

The Miles Davis classic "All Blues" triggered some effective scat singing, a technique Mahogany employed with the rhythmic drive and harmonic accuracy of a jazz instrumentalist. Shifting gears again, he sang the lovely ballad "When October Goes" with warm, laid-back tenderness, then wrapped his set with a brisk romp through "Route 66."

It was an impressive jazz outing for an artist who appears to be viewed as a potential crossover act (into the rhythm & blues and adult contemporary arenas) by his record company. The demands of the commercial record world obviously have their own sense of urgency, but, as his Bakery performance made clear, it would be a shame if Mahogany--one of the first truly gifted male jazz vocalists to emerge in years--were diverted from the kind of singing he does so well.

* Kevin Mahogany at the Jazz Bakery through Sunday, 3233 Helms Ave., (310) 271-9039. $20 admission tonight and Saturday at 8:30 p.m., and Sunday at 8 p.m. $17 admission tonight and Saturday at 10:30 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m.

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