For vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Christine Hitt
, music is a family affair. Her father was a band director and her mother was a piano teacher and professional vocalist. Hitt married a trumpet player, and two of her three sons appear on Hitt’s newest CD, Magical Kite
Hitt’s warm voice can express a rich tapestry of tones, and she sings ballads and swing tunes with equal facility. The selection of songs on Magical Kite
, from standards to gospel to bebop, reflects Hitt’s eclectic tastes and influences, but it’s her innate musicality that elevates and personalizes these songs. The CD was produced by Geoffrey Keezer
, the prolific, Grammy- nominated pianist, composer, and arranger, and features John Beasley
on piano. Beasley is also a Grammy-nominated arranger and bandleader whose music career spans more than three decades with credits that read like a “Who’s Who” in music, film, and television.
Hitt lives in Northern Wisconsin, but with Keezer and Beasley living in Los Angeles, she came west to record at the famed Capitol Studios. Recording in Los Angeles with Keezer and Beasley gave Hitt access to some of the top jazz players in the country. She brought on board Bob Sheppard on alto sax, Leonardo Amuedo
on guitar, Jeff Hamilton
and Gene Coye
on drums, and Walter Rodriguez
on percussion. Her son, Eric Hitt, plays bass.
It was Eric Hitt, who studied bass with Hans Sturm
and is currently studying with Lynn Seaton
at the University of North Texas, who first met Geoffrey Keezer at a jam session in Geoffrey’s hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Hitt wanted to focus on her vocals for Magical Kite
and also wanted unique arrangements. She knew Keezer would be the perfect choice for this project. Keezer wanted the project to reflect Hitt’s style so he agreed to produce and arrange, but he suggested that John Beasley play piano. Hitt was sold.Magical Kite
is the long-awaited follow-up to You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To
, her 1999 MAXJAZZ release that featured Hitt on vocals and piano, along with several well-known jazz artists, including Jeff Hamilton on drums and Tom Kennedy
The songs on Magical Kite
are stylistically diverse. Hitt opens the CD with “Wade in the Water,” a spiritual that contains coded instructions to fugitive slaves about how to avoid being re- captured. The song is widely associated with the Underground Railroad and became part of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.
Hitt composed the title track, “Magical Kite,” as a tribute to her father, who was so instrumental in forming her creative life. She’s joined on that tune by vocalist Erin Bode, a former student of Hitt’s who has gone on to record eight well-received CDs and maintains a very busy international touring schedule. Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” James Taylor’s “Shower the People,” and Dan Fogelberg’s “Believe in Me” are three pop songs that Hitt and Keezer turned into cool jazz numbers. Hitt is joined by her youngest son, vocalist Cory Hitt, on “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” and “Shower the People,” the latter also includes Erin Bode. Hitt trades scat lines and does a burning soli with Bob Sheppard on “Yardbird Suite” and performs a swinging version of “Shine On Harvest Moon” as a tribute to Rosemary Clooney. Keezer’s arrangements truly set this recording apart, but Hitt also wanted the experience of Keezer as an accompanist; she closes the CD with a gentle but emotional duet with him on “Around The World.”
About Christine Hitt
Hitt has been studying and playing music her whole life. Her mother started her on piano lessons when she was four years old, and she started playing the oboe and sax when she was in fifth grade. She played in her father’s band while still in high school and went on to play woodwinds in her college ensembles. It was through her experience in college big bands that Hitt first became interested in vocal jazz. After finishing her undergraduate studies, she went on to pursue a Master’s Degree in piano performance at the University of Arizona while performing and recording as a commercial vocalist.
After Hitt and her future husband finished school, the couple were deciding what their next steps should be when a couple of friends, who were part of the United State Air Force Band, told them it was a great career move for a musician. So, the two signed up, and Hitt spent seven years playing jazz piano while touring around the country and travelling to Central and South America, performing before huge crowds. Hitt left the military to freelance and raise her children, while her husband stayed on.
The couple, who had been stationed in Scott Air Base in Illinois, liked the area and decided to make it their home. It was just a 20-minute drive to St. Louis, which gave Hitt the opportunity to hone her chops at the Hotel Majestic and Ritz Carlton, playing with jazz bassist Tom Kennedy. She was also able to play with big names that came through town such as Todd Strait, Nick Brignola
, Harry Allen
and Jake Hanna
. St. Louis was also home to the MAXJAZZ label, which became known for their roster of high caliber artists. Hitt was signed as one of the very first vocalists to record for the label.
Hitt has taught at several universities, including Webster University in St. Louis, where she started the vocal jazz studies program. The family moved to Wisconsin to be close to Hitt’s relatives when her husband retired from the military after 20 years of service. She got a job coaching vocalists and pianists at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, and 18 years after releasing her debut CD, Hitt decided the time was right to record a follow up that would stretch her musically.
With Hitt’s sophisticated lyric interpretations along with her musical chops, Magical Kite
is a showcase from an experienced artist with great depth and maturity.Magical Kite
will be available in stores and online everywhere.