Given that Kevin Mahogany released his debut in 1996, some may say the year 2000 is a bit early for a retrospective. Nevertheless, there are some fine moments on this collection. Mahogany's voice is deep, lustrous, and technically flawless. But his motley supporting cast speaks volumes about the way he straddles the straight-ahead and crossover jazz divide. Appearing during the course of this album are saxophonists Kirk Whalum, Michael Brecker, and Joe Lovano; pianists Brad Mehldau, Cyrus Chestnut, and Bob James (and organist Larry Goldings); and guitarists Peter Bernstein and Larry Carlton.
Because these stylists -- and Mahogany's repertoire choices -- contrast so widely, the program seems to jump around too much. Mahogany is an effective blues and R&B shouter on tunes like "I'm Walkin'," "Yesterday I Had the Blues," and "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know." He's solid in a jazz vein on "Teach Me Tonight," "Nature Boy," and "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat." The pop and rock covers are a mixed bag, however: James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and Van Morrison's "Wild Honey" work rather well, but Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" is less convincing. "Dock of the Bay," a previously unreleased live outtake, doesn't add much of interest to the original, and the string section accompaniment on "Laura," from the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil soundtrack, is a bit wallpaperish. Michael Brecker's tenor break raises an eyebrow, however.
The music cooks the most when Larry Goldings and Peter Bernstein lend their famous rapport. And Joe Lovano's unmistakable presence on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" is a delightful surprise. Mahogany's voice is consistently good, and capable of handling a wide variety of styles. But in aesthetic terms, it's precisely this stylistic back and forth that makes the album a bit uneven.