Big Band includes ten selections featuring Mahagony fronting a variety of large groups. Mahogany jousts with songs both familiar and obscure, throwing the gauntlet down to any contenders for the jazz vocal crown. If you lo... more »ve jazz vocals-the album is a definite keeper; if you love jazz vocals powered by big bands-this disc is manna from heaven. Big Band is sure to be remembered when Grammy time and year-end bests come around.« less
Big Band includes ten selections featuring Mahagony fronting a variety of large groups. Mahogany jousts with songs both familiar and obscure, throwing the gauntlet down to any contenders for the jazz vocal crown. If you love jazz vocals-the album is a definite keeper; if you love jazz vocals powered by big bands-this disc is manna from heaven. Big Band is sure to be remembered when Grammy time and year-end bests come around.
"I'm familiar with Kevin Mahogany from "Another Time/Another Place" and "Pussy Cat Dues". Of the three, I think this one is clearly his best, and it strikes me at a low 5-star level.
What makes this one stand out in the Mahogany catologue, IMO, are the charts. The big band charts (primarily of the Frank Mantooth Jazz Orchestra) are sensational, particularly "Moonlight in Vermont" and "One for My Baby" (swung totally oppositely from Sinatra's famous version), as well as the infectious chart of Cole Porter's "It's Alright With Me" by the "Big City Swing Big Band", and the silky smooth "Three Little Words" by the Manteeth. The charts alone are virtually worth the price of the album.
As for Kevin Mahogany himself, the yellow sticker on the c.d. case cover announces, from the New York Times, "Nature unleases a gale force voice." In a way, that is true. Mr. Mahogany has a big baritone range, and he is particularly impressive in the upper part of his range. Witness how he belts out "One for My Baby" in a second-tenor range without straining or cracking, for example. The man can also scat. Even though this album was recorded in the studio, his scatting on "Centerpiece" is so dramatically impressive that I expected to hear rousing ovations twice during the performance. And the man can growl as well. His gutteral attacks on "In the Evening" very definitely evoked Jimmy Rushing, and well demonstrate his versatility.
My reservation with Kevin Mahogany is that he sings with a very covered voice. As a result, he is very smooth, but when he is in mid-range, I detect a bit of lacking warmth. To use a gem analogy, his voice is like a rock that has been in the tumbler a little bit too long; it has absolutely no rough edges, but it lacks a shine. If Mr. Mahogany could retrain his voice to sing with more vibrancy, while not losing the very admirable control that he has, he would be the best male popular singer in any genre today. As it is, he is "merely" one of the best. And for this album, that's plenty good enough. Highly recommended. RC"
I don't get the rave reviews
Greg Brady | Capital City | 06/08/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I like big band/standards..the "old guys" (Sinatra,Cole,Armstrong) and some of the "new cats" as well (Rene Marie,Krall, some of Karrin Allyson's stuff), but this CD doesn't do a whole lot for me.
The arrangements are interesting at times though I'm not sure I'd always call them "big band". "Moonlight in Vermont" in particular has the "funk lite" feel that brings to mind George Benson a lot quicker than Artie Shaw. Those mentioning Mahogany's scat skills are correct though he indulges them way too often. Scat is best as a spice, not as a main ingredient. As to his voice, it's pleasant but not distinctive...I don't think I could "pick it out of a lineup". Have him and Wayne Brady sing the same thing and I'm not sure I could distinguish them.
HIGHLIGHTS: Taking "It Don't Mean a Thing" into Latin territory is unique and makes it a flavourful track. Danny Barber acquits himself well on the trumpet solo. The Lou Rawls-ish croon that Mahogany adopts for Monk's "Ruby" seems to be his calling. His voice is very attuned to that style and he should really consider aiming his focus towards that more and away from the dubious scat-a-thons. "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" isn't really "big band"...it's just James Williams' piano accompanying Mahogany but it swings nicely. It's a keeper.
LOWS: "Moonlight in Vermont" sounds right out of smooth jazz purgatory to my ears. I'm yawning before I get halfway through it. Scat runs amok through "Centerpiece". Others are praising "One for my Baby" but this is another one that makes me press the "skip" button. There's simply no "edge" to Mahogany's voice to make me feel the lyric. "Three Little Words" has a nicely slinky bossa nova melody but the lyrics are too pedestrian for me to like the song.
BOTTOM LINE: While I'm not ready to consign these songs to the past, Mahogany's versions aren't the best way to bring them into the modern age. Most of this just doesn't "wow" me.
I'd suggest giving Rene Marie a listen instead to hear how you can reinterpret a song in a fresh way and still respect the tradition that birthed it."
Just Gets Better n Better
Dennis Stokes | St Louis Mo | 02/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anyone who doesn't have a complete Kevin Mahagony section in their collection is truly missing out on one of the finest jazz vocalists around today. His selections on every cd reflect the classy and tasteful talent he is. Thank you Mr. Mahogany for still another pleasurable listening session!"
Mikey Sayz | 06/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the finest big band album I have heard in years. Forget all the milk toast "standards" singers you think were good. This is the real deal. Big band was never intended to be background dinner music. This isn't."