Kevin Mahogany's decision to cover Motown hits in a jazz setting stems from his desire to not only increase the audience for jazz, but to add new material to the music's repertoire, in addition to the established standards. The results are ear-opening, particularly for those who never seriously listened to the likes of Marvin Gaye or Smokey Robinson. Mahogany, whose richly textured baritone helped him become one of the top male jazz vocalists to emerge during the 1990s, arranged several of the tracks, including the stark "My World Is Empty Without You," where his only backing is provided by bassist Melissa Slocum and percussionist Don Alias, as well as a swinging treatment of "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game." The singer is backed by a quartet of singers for catchy doo wop interpretations of "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" and "Reach Out I'll Be There." Pianist James Weidman, who provides just the right support on six of the CD's 11 tracks, is the sole accompanist and arranger of "Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)," reworking this huge hit into a lush ballad. Gaye's "Pride and Joy," arranged by guitarist Dave Stryker, is recast in a driving hard bop setting, featuring Mahogany's scat exchanges with the muted trumpet of Jon Faddis. Stryker also contributed the tasty chart of "I Can't Get Next to You" and a startling, very slow ballad treatment of "The Tears of a Clown," where his acoustic guitar is the only backing for Mahogany's magical vocals. This stunning release is heartily recommended.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden