Kevin Mahogany Salutes Big Joe Turner at the Dakota, July 21-22

by Andrea Canter, JazzPolice.Com
July 19, 2008

Acclaimed baritone Kevin Mahogany pays tribute to his hometown hero, Big Joe Turner, with two nights of “shake, rattle and roll” in a “Kansas City Revue” at the Dakota Jazz Club in downtown Minneapolis, July 21-22. He’ll be joined by the “Godfathers of Groove”-- a hot Hammond B-3 trio with organist Reuben Wilson, guitarist Grant Green, and drummer JT Lewis; guest vocalist Kathy Kosins will also be on hand.

Known for hits such as “Shake, Rattle & Roll," “Cherry Red,” and “Roll ‘Em Pete,” as well as his ability to sing over a band without a microphone, Big Joe Turner was a significant inspiration to fellow Kansas City native Kevin Mahogany. From bop to blues, ballads to swing, Mahogany showed his early gifts on piano, clarinet, and bari sax, and was a member of Eddie Baker’s Orchestra while still in his teens. In high school he played in multiple concert and marching bands, finally discovering his vocal talents during his senior year after hearing Al Jarreau. At Baker University, he continued to pursue both instrumental and vocal music, forming his own jazz choir. After graduation, he formed bands performing a largely R&B repertoire, and become a popular vocalist in Kansas City throughout the 1980s. Meanwhile he was evolving his own distinct style, influenced by Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Al Jarreau and Eddie Jefferson.

With his debut recording Double Rainbow in 1993, Mahogany was soon in the limelight, recording three more albums for Enja before signing on with Warner Brothers in 1995, and more recently with Telarc. Now, with 11 recordings to his credit, he has formed his own label and has been anointed by Newsweek as “the standout vocalist of his generation.” Kevin has also appeared on film, in Robert Altman’s Kansas City where he portrayed a character based on Big Joe Turner. In addition to performance, Kevin has a long history as a teacher—starting when he was fourteen, continuing on the faculty of the Berklee College of Music when he lived in Boston, and moving on to the University of Miami. In recent tours, the 49-year-old baritone has drawn on the works of Johnny Hartman, the subject of a recent release on his new label, Mahogany Jazz (To Johnny Hartman). "Singers like Johnny Hartmann," he says. "People call him a singer's singer. But I'm hoping to take him to a wider audience."

Oklahoma native Reuben Wilson spent much of his childhood in southern California, attending school with vibes master Bobby Hutcherson and bassist Herbie Lewis. He became interested in the organ even before seriously considering the piano, and is largely self-taught, citing Billy Larkin and Jimmy Smith as early sources of inspiration. Working for a while as a professional boxer, he relocated to New York in the mid 1960s where he played with Grant Green, Sam Rivers, Roy Haynes and Willis "Gatortail" Jackson. Mixing straight-ahead jazz with pop and fusion, and later acid jazz, Reuben’s “Gotta Get Your Own” eventually became a hit in Europe in the 80s; in the 90s, the DJ scene led to revived interest in his compositions like “Ronnie’s Bonnie” and “We’re In Love.” Soon known as the “Godfather of Acid Jazz,” in the mid 90s he toured internationally with Guru’s Jazzmatazz II. Into the new millennium, Wilson continues to tour and record, noting that now he is playing for the children of his original audiences 30 years ago.

Son of legendary hard bop/soul jazz guitarist Grant Green, Grant Green, Jr. grew up surrounded by music near Detroit, and first tried guitar at age 5. He started his first group at age 12, eventually moving to New York where he became popular among jazz and blues artists. In 1998 he assembled a tribute to his late father on Evidence (A Tribute to Grant Green). He now has issued four recordings as leader, including 2006’s Masters of Groove.

J.T. Lewis started playing drums at age 10 and went on to study with John Lewis, Jaki Byard and Albert “Tootie” Heath. With over 200 recordings to his credit, Lewis has played or recorded with such artists as Stanley Jordan, Henry Threadgill, Sting, Tina Turner, Lou Reed, Whitney Houston, Herbie Hancock, and Marianne Faithful, and co-led the band Harriet Tubman.

Six-time ASCAP-winning songwriter, jazz educator and acclaimed vocalist Kathy Kosins appeared with Kevin Mahogany at the Dakota in 2007. The Detroit native first made her mark in R&B, moving into jazz and working with J.C. Heard and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra. Among her performances are appearances in New York at the Blue Note and Jazz Standard, in LA at the Jazz Bakery, in Chicago at the Green Mill and Andy’s. Through summer and fall 2008 she is touring with Kevin Mahogany’s Kansas City Revue.

It will be two groovin’, soulful nights at the Dakota as Kevin Mahogany and company bring the sizzle of Kansas City to Minneapolis. In addition to the sounds of Big Joe Turner, expect to hear excerpts from the songbooks of other musicians who helped create the Kansas City sound--Pete Johnson, Bennie Moten, Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Witherspoon, Joe Williams and more.

Kevin Mahogany’s Kansas City Revue comes to town for two nights, two sets each night, July 21-22. Reservations at 612-332-1010; visit www.dakotacooks.com. More on the Kansas City Revue at www.krainbow2003.com