Monday, August 11, 2008

Concert calendar changes

There have been a couple of changes over the last week to the local jazz concert calendar, one involving the retirement of a veteran St. Louis performer:

* Saxophonist Jeff Coffin's show at the Lucas School House, originally scheduled for August 21, is off. Looking at Coffin's Web site, it appears as if all of his dates with his band the Mu'Tet for 2008 have been canceled, and his St. Louis show is no longer listed on the Lucas School House Web site.

That's because Coffin is touring with the Dave Mathews Band through October 5, sitting in for DMB's LeRoi Moore, who was injured in an ATV accident back in June. It seems unlikely that the Mu'tet's St. Louis gig will be rescheduled for this year, since once Coffin is done with the DMB tour, he's got just four weeks until Bela Fleck and the Flecktones hit the road for the entire months of November and December. The closest that tour will get to St. Louis appears to be Springfield, MO, where the Flecktones will play at Missouri State University.

* Then there's this news from the Sheldon Concert Hall: "Due to health concerns, Jean Kittrell will not be able to perform on the October 27 and 28 Coffee Concerts at the Sheldon Concert Hall. The show will go on, however, with acclaimed pianist Pat Joyce, along with Red Lehr and the Old St. Louis Levee Band, on the same dates, October 27 at 28 at 10 a.m."

Wondering if Kittrell (pictured) was going to be OK, the next day I then saw this in an article from the Canton, IL Daily Ledger about the St. Louis Rivermen, another Kittrell-led ensemble, heading to Macomb, Illinois on Saturday, September 13 to headline the Seventh Annual Al Sears Jazz Festival: "Lehr, the last remaining original member of the band, took over when another original member, pianist and vocalist Jean Kittrell, retired at age 81."

Heading then to Kittrell's own Web site, the home page bears the message, "Retired as uninhibited leader of three jazz bands as of July 21, 2008." And so, the Daily Ledger's report would seem to be accurate, and pianist and singer Jean Kittrell has retired after six decades of entertaining and edifying audiences in St. Louis and around the country.

Kittrell is notable not only for performing and preserving traditional jazz for several generations of appreciative listeners, but for enjoying longterm success as a bandleader, starting long before "feminism" became a familiar term and continuing for many years in an challenging and ever-changing industry. Here's hoping that whatever health difficulties Kittrell may be experiencing are brief, and that she'll be able to enjoy her retirement. Fortunately for the rest of us, her music can still be enjoyed on a number of recordings currently in print.

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