"The hay's in the barn" is a popular phrase among Iowa farmers, meaning that the work is done and things are good to go.
It also pertains to renowned jazz and blues vocalist Kevin Mahogany's booked appearance at the 10th annual Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival this weekend.
Mahogany, who is often compared to the jazz, blues, and R&B greats, headlines the Festival's Sunday afternoon Concert from 4-6 p.m. at the Cherokee Community Center.
Born in 1958 in Kansas City, Mo., Mahogany grew up listening to the richly diverse musical sounds of his hometown, where jazz and blues had reigned supreme in the early 1900s. He studied clarinet and piano in his formative years and was tutored at the Charlie Parker Foundation. Working regularly in the Eddie Baker New Breed Orchestra in Kansas City, Mahogany was an accomplished baritone saxophonist by the age of 12 and was teaching clarinet by the time he was 14.
Mahogany developed a keen interest in vocals as a senior in high school and later while studying music at Baker University, where he established a jazz choir and also led two groups focusing on R&B and classic soul. He graduated with a BFA in Music, English, and Drama in 1981 from that Baldwin City, Kan. college.
Since appearing at the first Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival in the 90s, Mahogany has been interested in returning to Cherokee to perform and is excited to be coming back here. In fact, he's lined up his own band of accomplished musicians he's familiar with to perform the background music to his incredible vocal talents.
One of those musicians is Brad Hittle, a noted double bass player from Yankton, S.D. who recently moved there from Washington, D.C. He will be joined by his brother Pete Hittle, a trumpet player from Sioux City and a member of the Northwest Iowa Musicians who open this year's Festival Friday night at The Copper Cup.
Joining the Hittles will be pianist Charles Sanders and drummer Randy Washburn, accomplished musicians also from Sioux City.
When not singing and performing, Mahogany, also an accomplished baritone saxaphone and clarinet player, conducts music clinics.
In a telephone interview, "I love teaching," said the well-traveled musician now living in Miami, who moved south out of the cold weather.
"I love working with kids and students who want to sing. We're losing (to age, mortality) all the great jazz and blues singers and we need to work hard to replace them and keep vocal jazz alive and well."
Mahogany said he loves all genres of music, from country to classical and everything in between.
"I love everything," said the vocalist who rarely plays his sax or clarinet anymore while performing. "Good music is good music. I listen to country, rock, rap, classical., R&B...you name it. Separate styles can coincide. Blues are a part of jazz. You can't have one without the other."
The release of Kevin Mahogany Big Band, on Mahogany Jazz with Warner Brothers - WEA distribution in 2005 would find Mahogany #3 on the charts and the #1 male vocalist on jazz radio. Billboard declared, "Kevin Mahogany is unquestionably one of today's most exciting and musically adept jazz vocalists."
In 2007, Kevin Mahogany launched two international tours based on pivotal points of jazz history: Kevin Mahogany's Kansas City Revue, featuring the Music of Big Joe Turner and The Coltrane/Hartman Fantasy (costarring David Liebman).
Cherokee Jazz & Blues Festival tickets are available at the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce, 225-6414, The Copper Cup, 225-5287, State Farm Insurance, 225-5747, and CAEDC at 225-5739. For more information on the Cheroke Jazz and Blues Festival go to www.cherokeejazzbluesfestival.com.