After 25+ years of marvelous music making under the leadership of Jean Kittrell, the St. Louis Rivermen have elected David "Red" Lehr as their new leader and his wife, Carolyn as the band's business manager. They are continuing to delight audiences everywhere with their unique blend of virtuosity and unbridled energy and enthusiasm.
Saddened by the retirement of the vivacious Ms. Kittrell in July, 2008, (read more on that here), but thrilled to carry on with the band at her insistence, they are the definition of a high-energy, tightly unified traditional jazz ensemble.
Relying on instincts, inspirations of the moment, perfect pitch, inevitable humor, and camaraderie, these musicians create joyous jazz and heart-breaking blues extemporaniously 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, with Jean Kittrell as the leader of the band. Red Lehr was also an original member of that band and continues now as their new leader.
Three of the guys 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. Now with Jean and Jack retired, Ray Templin (piano) and Don Schroeder (drums) round out the septet. And what an amazing ensemble it is!
Red and Noel read each other's 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, Don, and Ray 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. It continues today with the latest incarnation of this incredible group of musicians wherever they play.
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.
Regular members of the festival band include: Bobby Grimm, banjo; Noel Kaletsky, clarinet and soprano sax; David "Red" Lehr, sousaphone and leader; Steve Lilley, cornet and master of ceremonies or emcee; Jim Maihack, trombone; Don Schroeder, percussion; Ray Templin, piano. When playing in the St. Louis area, Brett Stamps often subs on trombone with Bobby, Red, Steve, Don and one of a number of different excellent pianists.