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Published: Thursday, 5/26/2005

Boyhood piano lessons led to career in music

Kevin Mahogany Kevin Mahogany

"When I was a kid, music was just as important as English and math in our household," says Kevin Mahogany, the jazz singer who will be in concert tomorrow night at Murphy's Place.

A native of Kansas City, Mahogany took piano lessons as a child, moved to clarinet, and by age 12 was playing baritone saxophone.

He played in Eddie Baker's New Breed Orchestra in high school and also performed in the school marching and concert bands. During his senior year, Mahogany started singing in church and discovered his talent for vocals.

He cites the intricate and innovative harmonies of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross - the landmark 1950s jazz vocal trio led by Toledoan Jon Hendricks - as one of his main inspirations for singing, along with Eddie Jefferson and Al Jarreau.

Mahogany attended Baker University in Kansas, where he formed a jazz choir and earned a bachelor's degree in music, English, and drama in 1981.

After college, Mahogany returned to Kansas City and sang jazz, R&B, and 1960s Motown music with several bands before landing a recording contract with the German label Enja, for whom he released four jazz vocal CDs.

In 1995, Mahogany was signed by Warner Bros., with whom he released a self-titled major label debut in 1996 and three more discs through 2000.

Now signed with the prestigious jazz and blues label Telarc, Mahogany's most recent release, "Big Band," earned raves from Billboard magazine which called him "unquestionably one of today's most exciting and musically adept jazz vocalists."

He also plans to release a CD tribute, "To Johnny Hartman," this year honoring the enigmatic jazz and pop vocalist who died in 1983.

Kevin Mahogany will be in concert at 8:30 and 10 p.m. tomorrow at Murphy's Place, 151 Water St. Admission is $10, $15, and $20. Information: 419-241-7732.

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