Bringing jazz home

Lillian Boutté lends her New Orleans lilt to the Hot Jazz series.

Lillian Boutté lends her New Orleans lilt to the Hot Jazz series (photo credit: PR)
Lillian Boutté lends her New Orleans lilt to the Hot Jazz series
(photo credit: PR)
The upcoming installment of the Hot Jazz series will come straight from the art form’s birthplace when Lillian Boutté makes it over here for what promises to be a rousing and moving experience for music lovers who like to connect with the roots of jazz. The 65-year-old New Orleans-born vocalist will give six concerts all over the country between November 8 and 15, ably supported by a four-piece instrumental lineup of British guitarist Denny Ilett, Sloveniaborn Israeli resident Gasper Bertonceli, Israeli saxophonist Kobi Salomon and seasoned compatriot bass player Assaf Hakimi.
Although she now lives in Germany, Boutté is a diehard native of New Orleans, where she grew up with her 10 siblings, and was nurtured on its rhythms, melodies and vibes. Music was her passion right from the word go.
She won her first singing contest when she was 11. Later, during her music studies at New Orleans’s Xavier University, she sang in the institution’s gospel choir, and the church-based discipline remains a mainstay of her recorded and live output. She eventually came to the notice of multi-Grammy Award-winning fellow New Orleans native, composer and record producer Allen Toussaint.
Boutté gained valuable professional experience when Toussaint used her as a background singer on recordings of the likes of rhythms and blues musicians James Booker, singer Patti LaBelle and singer-songwriter Dr. John.
Boutté has been dubbed the Delta Queen, in reference to the Delta Region of Mississippi, which is considered to be the birthplace of the blues and jazz.
Over the years, she has branched out in to other associated genres, such as R&B and later made a name for herself in the musicals sector.
In 1979 she became a star of the playwright, actor and singer Vernel Bagnaris’s show One Mo´ Time, a vaudeville musical set in New Orleans and based on blues and jazz material from the 1920s and early 1930s. With Boutté’s background, it was the perfect vehicle for Boutté to show off her developing skill and talent. She performed in the show for four years, in the US, Sweden and Brazil, and her long-standing berth in the play enriched her performance experience and her handson knowledge of jazz singing. In 1992 she made a recording with Bagnaris.
In 1980 Boutté met German reed player Thomas L´Etienne, who had been playing New Orleans music since the early 1970s.
The lengthy tour of Europe she made with him in 1981-82 led to a life-changing move. In 1983 she formed an international group, the Music Friends, led by L’Etienne, and the pair married in New Orleans in 1984 and set up home in Hamburg, Germany.
However, the New Orleans- born vocalist has never emotionally left her place of birth. In 1984 she was awarded the official title of New Orleans Music Ambassador, the first recipient of the title since Louis Armstrong. She continued to perform and record frequently around Europe and the US, including a memorable gig with iconic British trumpeter and band leader Humphrey Lyttleton. She later struck up a fruitful working relationship with German blues and boogie-woogie piano player and vocalist Christian Willisohn.
Boutté is one of the most versatile traditional jazz singers who can turn her hand, with equal facility, to gospel, blues, ballads and rhythm & blues. Her ability to adapt to many different styles has had her compared to such greats as Bessie Smith, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, “Big Mama” Thornton, Aretha Franklin and Mahalia Jackson. Dr. Martin Luther King once said of her: “A voice like this comes once in a millennium.”
Above all, jazz fans here will undoubtedly be charmed by Boutté’s vivacious personality and infectious good humor. It should be fun.
Lillian Boutté will perform in Ganei Tikva, Jerusalem, Herzliya, Modi’in, Tel Aviv and Haifa. For tickets and more information: (03) 573-3001 and