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Red-Hot Mama

It's easy to be transported back in time to the Mississippi's more mischievous days when you're floating down the river with Jean Kitrell on board.

For years this Illinois-based Southern belle and her irrepressible Dixieland jazz band have been entertaining riverboat travelers with their effervescent music – and teaching them a thing or two in the process.

With charismatic musicians like Louis Armstrong at the helm, Dixieland swept up the Mississippi Valley at the beginning of the 20th century, bringing this new art form to Illinois. One of the earliest forms of that new style of music called jazz, Dixieland would leave its mark on the nation and revolutionize music.

Kitrell has been described as "part college professor and part red-hot mama." Her Ph.D. in Literature answers to the first part of that description. After watching her perform, you'll have no doubt about the rest.

Related Links

Check out some of Illinois' hot jazz acts: Tatsu Aoki, Nicole Mitchell, Orbert Davis, Malachi Thompson's Freebop Band, the New Arts Jazztet and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

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Jean Kittrell and the St Louis Rivermen. Noel Kaletsky, Steve Lilley, Brett Stamps, Jean Kittrell, Bobby Grimm, David "Red" Lehr and Don Schroeder. Courtesy of Jean Kittrell.

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Kittrell during one of her first solo gigs at the Old St. Louis Levee Bar, 1967. Courtesy Jean Kittrell.

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Like Superman, Kittrell sometimes adopts a mild-mannered persona. She formerly taught English at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

 

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