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Seventy Year Career in Traditional JazzCopyright © 2001
Jeanette Kimball enjoyed a 70 year career playing piano in traditional jazz bands. Her skills as an accomplished reader combined with her ability to improvise made her an in-demand musician in New Orleans.
She was born Jeanette Salvant in the small town of Pass Christian, into a family with French Creole connections. She began taking piano lessons at 7, and began to perform professionally as a teenager, initially in string bands, then in jazz settings.
She joined a society dance band, Celestins Tuxedo Orchestra, in 1926, and toured the south with them, performing for white audiences at dances and carnivals. She married banjoist and guitarist Narvin Kimball, also a member of the band, in 1929, and stopped touring to raise her family in 1935.
She used the name Kimball even after her marriage failed, and began to work again in New Orleans in the mid-1940s. She worked with band leaders like Buddy Charles, Herb Leary and Sidney Desvignes, and was the long-standing organist and choir director of the Holy Ghost Catholic Church in the city.
She rejoined Papa Celestin when he revived his band in the 1950s, and stayed on when Papa French took over the running of the group. She was a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and also played with trumpeter Clive Wilsons Original Camellia Jazz Band. She received the Black Men of Labor Jazz Legacy Award in 1999.
She is survived by her former husband, her daughters, and grandchildren.