Jean Kittrell, First Lady of Jazz

Retired as uninhibited leader of three jazz bands, as of July 21, 2008.


Jean Kittrell Jazz Scholarship established 2009 at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville


Dear friends, 20 July 2009

Your thoughtful and numerous cards, pictures, telephone calls, e-mails, CDs, videos, sent to me after my retirement in July 2008 from leading three jazz bands—JAZZ INCREDIBLES and OLD ST. LOUIS LEVEE BAND (for 30 years), and JK & ST. LOUIS RIVERMEN (for 28 years)—have warmed my heart. How fortunate I am to have so many memories shared with you of our good times together.

The crowning tribute to my life in jazz, which amazes and delights me, has come from the St. Louis Jazz Club, of which I have been a member for over 40 years. The Club established in 2008 at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville the JEAN KITTRELL JAZZ SCHOLARSHIP funded in part by the Bev Elliot Trust Bequest to the Jazz Club. Brett Stamps, Director of Jazz Studies at SIUE and trombonist with the Cornet Chop Suey Jazz Band, together with his committee, determined that the first student recipient of this scholarship would be the jazz vocalist, Barry Moton. Barry performed with Cornet Chop Suey at the January 2009 St. Louis Jazz Club concert, pleasing us all with his excellent, swinging renditions of some jazz classics.

I was asked what qualifications the recipient of the award should be—a pianist? vocalist? instrumentalist? female? No specific qualifications required, I said, except that the student should have a great sense of rhythm, a good ear, and adequate command (technique) of their instrument. Yes, the voice is considered an instrument in the requirement.

This scholarship offers financial help to encourage young musicians to develop their musical abilities in the field of jazz, and specifically, in Our Kind Of Music, OKOM! I invite you to join with me by contributing to this scholarship fund. Checks should be made out to the St. Louis Jazz Club with the memo: for the JEAN KITTRELL JAZZ SCHOLARSHIP, and mailed to the St. Louis Jazz Club, c/o Herb Mahler, President, PO Box 644, Fenton MO 63026. Your gift is tax deductible.

The editor of the Club’s newsletter, Kelly Casey, suggested that I should include in this letter a report on my health. I am very lucky at age 82. The colon cancer was Stage 2 and so, after surgery (August 2008), chemotherapy and radiation were NOT required. I do water exercise 4-5 days a week at the Edwardsville YMCA, 8-9 AM, run my household (driving, grocery shopping, cooking brand new recipes, maintaining my 2003 Highlander Toyoto van), use a cane to keep from falling when I walk, present occasional concert/lectures on the roots of jazz, and sometimes lead groups in sing-alongs. August 10-15, 2009, I met my daughter, Camille, and her Canadian husband, Tom Bryant, as well as my friend, Lani Bourne, from New Mexico, in Washington, D.C. for a perfect vacation together.

Best wishes to all of you – Jean Kittrell,, TEL 618-656-5696,