Jean Kittrell, First Lady of Jazz

Jean Kittrell and the St. Louis Rivermen





David "Red" Lehr - sousaphone

Noel Kaletsky - clarinet, soprano sax
.....sometimes Eric Sager

Steve Lilley - cornet, trumpet

Bobby Grimm - tenor banjo

Jack Tartar - drums;
.....sometimes Don Schroeder

Jean Kittrell - piano, vocals

Jim Maihack - trombone;
.....sometimes Brett Stamps

Caribbean Cruise - 2004Double-click to edit text, or drag to move.

Relying on instincts, of the moment, perfect pitch, inevitable humor, and comaradarie, these musicians create joyous jazz and heart-breaking blues extemporaneously out of challenging ideas flowing forth from each of them. A thorough knowledge of traditional jazz, the example of unarranged jazz bands like Louis Armstrong's ALL STARS and Eddie Condon's small groups, plus years of experience in numerous trad bands, form the solid foundation of their music.


The RIVERMEN began in 1982 as a hand-picked group by Frank Maloney, then President of the St. Louis Jazz Club. Kittrell couldn't believe it when Frank said she would be the leader of the band. She had always been a happy side-woman and didn't want the responsibility--but Frank prevailed. Thus began what has now been a 24-year chore, responsibility, and privilege.


Festivals played by the RIVERMEN in the last ten years with many repeats and with many changes of personnel include: Sun Valley Swing'n' Dixie Jazz Jamboree, ID; Pismo Beach, CA; Early Jazz Fest, OH; Seaside, OR; Monterey, CA; Eureka, CA; 3 Rivers, CA; Victoria, B.C., Canada; Sturgis Falls, IA Lake of the Ozarks, MO; Central IL Jazz Fest, Decatur; Olympia, WA; Des Moines, IA; Gateway Jazzfest, St. Louis, MO; Sacramento, CA; Spokane, WA; Helena, MT; Suncoast, Clearwater, FL.


Carol Neumann's 20th Anniversary Jazz Sea Cruise of the Caribbean in 2003 included two of Jean's Bands, The RIVERMEN and the OSLLB.


Only two members of the original Rivermen remain in the 2006 Rivermen line up--David "Red" Lehr (sousaphone) and Jean Kittrell (piano, vocals). Three have been in the band several years--Bobby Grimm (tenor Banjo), Steve Lilley (trumpet, cornet) Noel Kaletsky (clarinet, soprano sax). Two subs joined the RIVERMEN aboard Holland America's MS Zaandam on a JazzSea January 2004 Caribbean cruise--Jim Maihack (trombone) and Jack Tartar (drums). Thus the new ST. LOUIS RIVERMEN came into being.


After these six guys and a gal played their first set, they looked at each other in amazement - hey, we're good together! Red and Noel read each others' minds as they play incredible duets together. Steve and Jim talk back and forth as they trade 2's and 4's and harmonize. Bobby, Jack, and Jean keep the rhythm swinging throughout. That magical instant rapport of the band so intrigued 300 cruisers on the Zaandam that they signed a petition demanding the return of The RIVERMEN on the January 2005 cruise.


Caribbean Cruise - 2005 

Caribbean Cruise - 2006

JEAN KITTRELL & ST LOUIS RIVERMEN continued to play JazzSea Caribbean Cruises in January 2007 and 2008. Jean retired from the band in July 2008.

Jean Kittrell, at age 81 in July 2008, due to unexpected and serious health problems, retired as pianist and leader of this band.

The new web page of the ST LOUIS RIVERMEN is They are playing swinging jazz as hot as ever (or even hotter) under the leadership of the sousaphonist, David "Red" Lehr.