Kevin Mahogany

Wednesday, February 2, through Saturday, February 5; Jazz at the Bistro (3536 Washington Avenue)

Because he's a big-voiced baritone from Kansas City who knows his way around the blues, it's natural that jazz singer Kevin Mahogany has been compared to greats like Joe Williams, Jimmy Rushing and Big Joe Turner. But Mahogany is more than a straight-up bluesman -- he's also a nimble improviser who's scatted bebop licks toe-to-toe with Jon Hendricks and a balladeer capable of surprising delicacy, evoking by turns the urbane suavity of Billy Eckstine and the wistfulness of Johnny Hartman.

If we lived in a world where talent was rewarded with financial success, Mahogany's imaginative reworkings of Motown tunes on the 2002 album Pride and Joy might have catapulted him into lucrative crossover territory, enabling him to start cashing Diana Krall-size checks with regularity. Instead, after years with well-known labels such as Warner Brothers and Telarc, Mahogany has now gone the independent route, starting his own label both to preserve his artistic prerogatives and to gain more control over the marketing and financial aspects of his albums.

The recent spike of commercial interest in jazz-flavored vocals (think: Norah Jones) and the Great American Songbook has helped boost the careers of numerous female singers, from veterans like Krall to newcomers like St. Louis' own Erin Bode, who's been name-checked in the major jazz magazines several times during the past twelve months. Listeners seeking a male vocalist with comparable skills and aesthetics are hereby advised to look beyond the cynical "standards" albums by the likes of Rod Stewart and the bland pleasantries of Michael Bublé and Jamie Cullum -- instead, go check out Kevin Mahogany.

Two shows nightly at 8:30 and 10:15 p.m. Tickets are $25; call 314-531-1012 for more information.

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