Lillian Boutté

Photo of Lillian Boutté

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Singer, born 6 August 1949 in New Orleans, where she grew up with ten brothers and sisters.
A hairdresser by profession.
Mother Gloria Boutté, hairdresser. Father George Boutté, superviser at a postoffice, barber.

She was a member of the Golden Voices Choir at an early age and studied music therapy at Xavier University of Louisiana. At the age of eleven she won her first singing contest.

Known locally as a talented gospel singer, she began her professional career in 1973, and soon extended her repertoire into jazz, r&b, swing and blues. She recorded with Allen Toussaint, Lee Dorsey, Doctor John, Mylon LeFleur and the Olympia Brass Band and she has worked with Jay McShann, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Sammy Price, Doc Cheatham, Al Grey, James Booker, Patti LaBelle, Neville Brothers, Pointer Sisters, Milt Hinton, Gus Johnson, Jeanette Kimball, Henry Butler, Denny Barker and Arnett Cobb .

In 1979 she became a star of the Vernel Bagnaris show One Mo´ Time, a vaudeville musical in New Orleans, which was using blues and jazz material from the twenties and early thirties. She performed in the show for four years, in New Orleans, Sweden and Brasil, and her experience with it made her study jazz more intensively. In 1992 Vernel Bagnaris recorded with her (voc) in Copenhagen.

She made a lengthy tour of Europe in 1981-1982. In 1980 she met the German reed player Thomas L´Etienne who had been playing New Orleans music since the early seventies, and made her first tour with him, and in 1983 she formed and international group, the Music Friends, led by Thomas L´Etienne, whom she married in New Orleans on May 28th 1984, on which occasion they performed the song "Love" together (recorded on "Let them Talk"). Her European home has for many years been in Hamburg, Germany.

Before joining up with Lillian Boutté, Thomas L´Etienne led the Papa Tom´s Lamentation Jazz Band for fifteen years throughout Europe.

In November 1984 Lillian Boutté was awarded the official title of New Orleans Music Ambassador, not bestowed since Louis Armstrong received the title.

She was the featured vocalist at a memorial tribute to Tennessee Williams in St. Louis cathedral, New Orleans, and has interpreted the national anthem in the Superdome.

She continued to tour frequently in the USA and Europe as well as in the Far East, appearing at international festivals such as the Festa New Orleans Music in Ascona, Italy (1985 – 1988). In 1988 she performed with Humphrey Lyttleton, at the Barbican Arts Centre, London.

Occasionally she has performed together with her brother John and her nieces.

In 1988 Lillian Boutté met the outstanding German blues and boogie-woogie piano player and vocalist, Christian Willisohn (born Munich 1962)at Kemptener Jazzfestival, Germany, and in 1991 they made their first CD, Lipstick Traces, together.

Lillian Boutté is one of the most versatile traditional jazz singers, who excels in the performance of gospel, blues, ballads, and rhythm-and-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. Her close friend and associate Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of her: "A voice like this comes once in a millenium".

In Denmark she, as so many other American jazz artists, has found extremely fruitful ground for her music, and has toured the country extensively since 1983, at festivals, clubs, concert halls and a great number of church concerts, and has been the initiator of "Gospel United" concerts with choirs consisting of more than 800 boys and girls from local schools, together with Danish star singers.

All over Denmark she has been met with great awe, enthusiasm, and affection by her audience, and is probably the foreign jazz artist who has faced more Danes and Danish jazz enthusiasts than anyone else ever had.

Considering her indisputable qualities and her enormous popularity, it is therefore very strange that she has seldom appeared in Danish television or on Danish radio, and has not been interviewed by the Danish press, nor has she, or her records, been mentioned in the leading Danish jazz magazin "Jazz Special". However, in the February/March 1999 edition, she is mentioned briefly in a short article on "Neanders Jazzband". Her name is not included in "Politikens Jazzleksikon" from 1987, or in "Jazzens Historie I Ĺrhus" (1995), nor is she to be found in "The Guiness Jazz Book" (1986), in the "All Music Guide to Jazz" (3rd edition) or in the British "Jazz The Ultimate Guide" (1997). Only in "The New Grove Dictionary Of Jazz" (1996) is it possible to find some small information on her life and music, along with a rightly deserved acknowledgement of her outstanding qualities.

Maybe it is simply because she is bigger than life. To us, to whom the original jazz and blues means everything, she is the pure personification of the times and jazz artists and musical expression which once were, but now normally can only be imitated. She however, is the real thing, and takes us back in time and musical history, to the era which, alas, none of us were able to experience, and only some of us have caught glimpses of in the forties and fifties.

At the same time she is able to produce an evolution of the original jazz into something new - a sound of today, as can be heard especially in her co-operation with Christian Willisohn on the stunning and exiting "Come Together" from 1997.

We may not have been able to experience Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson or any of the other truly great jazz and gospel singers liive, but we have the unbelievable luck to be able to experience Lillian Boutté, right here and right now, Praise the Lord.



Lillian Boutté has appeared in movies and in the documentary "Piano Players Rarely Plays Together".
She had a cameo appearance in "Angle Heart", and can be heard on the soundtrack of that movie, together with Brownie McGee.



Gospel United Live
Starring Queen Of Gospel: Lillian Boutté and John Boutté - featuring Guest Star: Stig Rossen.
Recorded live at Odense Koncerthus, Odense, Denmark, October 30th 1994.
Gospel United Production



In a gospel Mood – with Olympia Brass Band, USA 1980

Live in Molde, Molde, Norway (first church concert in Europe)

Lillian Boutté live in Breda, Breda, Holland 1982

The birthday Party – with her Music Friends, Femř Jazz Festival, Denmark, 6 August 1983 (Hot Society HSLP 1007)

Music is my Life – with her Music Friends, The Netherlands 1984 (Turning Point Records 30007)

I sing because I´m Happy – with her Music Friends, The Netherlands, 1985 (Timeless Records JC 11003)

A fine Romance – Lillian Boutté – Thomas L´Etienne, New Orleans, 1985 (GHB Records GHB 206)

Let them Talk – Thomas L´Etienne New Orleans Ensemble, featuring Lillian Boutté Etienne, Kolding, Denmark, 18 June 1986, recorded live at Kridthuset (Storyville SLP 439)

Hold On, Copenhagen, March 1987 – Dedicated to Mahalia Jackson – (Chalker/Kridthuset)

Having a good Time – featuring Humphrey Littleton

"Lillian" The dazzling Lillian Boutté – with Humphrey Lyttleton and his Band, London, 24 May 1988, (Calligraph Records CLGLP 018)

The Gospel Book, New Orleans (Blues Beacon BLU 1017 2)

Lipstick Traces – Lillian Boutté meets Christian Willisohn, Allen Toussaint´s Sea Saint Studios, New Orleans, 5-7 April 1991 (Blues Beacon BLU 1011 2)

Live In Tivoli – Lillian Boutté and her American Band, Tivoli Copenhagen – live at Jazzhus Slukefter/Tivorleans – 9-11 July 1992 (Music Mecca CD 1030-2)

The Jazz Book – with special guest Dr. John (Mac Rebennack), New Orleans, February 1993 (Blues Beacon BLU 1020 2)

Lillian Boutté with Gospel United, live at Odense Koncerthus, Odense, Denmark, 30 October 1994 - Gospel United Production (GUCD 1)

Blues On The World – Christian Willisohn with Lillian Boutté as special guest on three recordings, Munich, April 1995 (Blues Beacon BLU 1025 2)

But...Beautiful – Lillian Boutté with Dr. John, 1995

Lillian Boutté with Gospel United ´95, Denmark 1995 – Gospel United Production (GUCD 2)

Lillian Boutté & Her International Band, 1996 – FRET Records (FJCD 111)

Concerto Di Natale, 1996 – Music Europa Records (AA 201-01)

Come Together – Lillian Boutté and Christian Willisohn, Munich 1997 (Art By Heart Records ABH 2002 2)

When I wish upon a Star, with Dirk Raufeisen, 1997, Diration (DT CD 160)

European Jazz Giants ´98, Pastels (20.1659-PA)

Neander Jazz Band with Lillian Boutté, Denmark 1998 (3 recordings)

Lillian Boutté has appeared on a number of recordings in the USA.

Compiled by Georg M. Facius – May 1999.



M.G. Larsen: Liner notes, New Orleans Gospel (Herman 1004, 1981)
M. Joly: Liner notes, I Sing because I´m Happy (Tim. 11003, 1985)