This year's Hot Jazz series kicks off in style. First up in the six act series, which runs till next June, is acclaimed vocalist Kevin Mahogany who will entertain audiences in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ashdod and Haifa from Monday through Saturday. The program should attract fans from across the musical board. Over the last twenty-five or so years, Kansas City born Mahogany has run his silky vocal skills across a wide spectrum of styles and genres. Growing up with the soul-based vibes of the innovative Detroit-based Motown label and the bluesy sounds of Memphis, Mahogany quickly latched onto the local jazz heritage. Kansas City was the birthplace of such jazz titans as Count Basie, Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Charlie Parker. At a very early age Mahogany enrolled at the Charlie Parker Foundation to study clarinet. He made rapid progress and, by the early age of 14, began to impart his newly won musical expertise to other students there. Given Mahogany's eclectic approach to the discipline, his choice of legendary vocalist Nat King Cole as the basis for his repertoire while here seems only natural. Cole started his working life as a pianist but soon graduated to a star-studded singing career, citing his sources of inspiration as ranging from gospel to Bach and Rachmaninoff. In fact, Mahogany studied piano, clarinet and baritone saxophone before he began polishing his vocal skills, performing in jazz bands and teaching music while still in high school. He grew up in a music rich environment, both at school and at home. "When I was a kid, music was just as important as English and math in our household," he says. "In fact, piano lessons were a grade school staple for the whole family." His early instrumental training, Mahogany says, gave him a head start when he opted to focus solely on singing. "I've been on both sides of that, as an instrumentalist and vocalist. What I see the instrumentalists saying is, 'If you're going to be a vocalist you need to know what's going on here'." Mahogany's artistic ethos is based on a simple concept - if he likes it he'll do it. To date, he has released 11 albums, encompassing jazz standards and special arrangements of contemporary and commercial material. For instance, My Romance, released in 1998, includes tried and tested jazz numbers the likes of "Stairway to the Stars" (made famous by arch crooner Johnny Hartman) and jazz diva Dinah Washington's "Teach Me Tonight." However, elsewhere on the album you'll also find Mahogany's singular versions of singer-songwriter James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight" and Lyle Lovett's country-style "I Know You Know." After deciding on a singing career, Mahogany formed the group Mahogany and The Apollos, which later became known simply as Mahogany. With a repetoire of R&B, crossover jazz and popular music, they developed a regular following over the next 10 years in Kansas City. It was around that time that a producer from German record label Enja heard him and the rest, as they say, is history. His 1993 Enja recording debut, Double Rainbow, placed him firmly in the all-rounder category. Critics and his burgeoning fan base alike were impressed with his ability to seamlessly embrace such a generous stylistic reach, as well as by his powerful scatting. Expect Mahogany to woo you with his deep dark tones but be prepared to be blown away with his unapologetic bare knuckled take too. For more information visit hotjazz.co.il.