With this album, Rita Bolton, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based vocalist and pianist and her trio -- veteran jazz musicians Johnny Strickler (guitar), Kyth Trantham (bass), and Karnell Robinson (drums) -- offer a fresh take on some of the great jazz standards with a spare, not overproduced, sound that evokes the live music one can hear wafting out of some tucked-away club. Rounding out the jazz standards are an R&B ballad “Rainy Night in Georgia” and “Danny Boy,” a voice-guitar duet.
For Bolton, a St. Louis native, the inspiration for this album developed over a 30-year career performing in many groups and genres. “Although I’ve sung and played just about everything, I keep returning to my roots and my great love, the jazz standards that I cut my teeth on,” Bolton said. “It’s the music that I always dreamed of recording myself one day.”
The album has received glowing reviews since its official release in 2010. Said one veteran musician, “I don’t usually gush about music, or even suggest artists to others … but there’s an exception to every rule, and this is it. Guitar, bass and drums … and her VOICE. Every time I listen to this CD, I hear something I missed before.” And, from another: “Trio is flawless – smooth, soulful, sexy -- and Bolton is crazy talented.”
Rita grew up in St. Charles, Missouri (near St. Louis) against an eclectic musical soundtrack of ‘60’s and ‘70’s rock, pop, R&B, soul, jazz and show tunes. She studied classical piano and music theory from childhood until college, when she realized that a music degree was way too much work and that she really wasn’t cut out for a career in orchestral scoring anyway.
But she couldn’t shake her passion for music and performing: In her 20’s, with ambitions of becoming a country singer, she quickly learned that to get work singing, she’d have to play, too. And so, with a borrowed amp and keyboard and not nearly enough ear training, she left her classical roots behind and entered the world of pickers who learned songs by ear and played their music in smoky clubs, yelling chord changes to each other between swills of beer.
The world was not impressed: As Rita puts it, “I really sucked!” Well, at least at first: She hung in there, taking every job she could, enduring long hours on the road, mean bar owners and amorous drunks, and navigating diverse musical styles from rock to blues to big band to hard-driving country. Along the way, she became known and respected among her mostly male counterparts as a salty piano player and vocalist who described herself as just one of the guys and carried her own gear.
Fast-forwarding more than three decades to the present, Rita is still out there singing and playing. She is proud to call St. Petersburg, Florida home, where she’s become a part of the local music scene.
So what's next? Album #2 is in progress, and Rita is enjoying sitting in with awesome local musicians. Click on the "Where's Rita?" button to find out where.
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With the late Lou Davidson at the release party for Rita Bolton: Trio, October, 2010. Lou was a veteran guitarist and singer/songwriter, and dear friend.
With Scott Iglehart (guitar), STretch Bruyn (piano), and lots of other friends at the Hangar, November, 2019.
Setting up for the release party for Rita Bolton: Trio, October, 2010.