Kilgore, Rebecca, American vocalist and guitarist; b. Waltham, Mass., Sept. 24, 1949. She is a vocalist with a gentle, lilting natural swing who also plays rhythm guitar (and plays it very well). Her sound is soothing, often soft and willowy, and easy on the ears. Although she has her own style, at times she sounds as if she had listened at length to Anita O’Day, June Christy, and Ella Fitzgerald. Then again, there is a suggestion of Doris Day in the timbre or tonal quality of her warm delivery. Her material is somewhat eclectic because she is so comfortable with jazz, country, and western swing, and with her favorite composers Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern, and other writers of the American popular song. She grew up with music and art in her home; her mother was a graphic artist, and her father had a music degree from Harvard as well as experience as a jazz pianist, a choir director, and writer of choral music. She began playing guitar while still in high school, attended the Univ. of Mass., became a computer programmer, and studied for a time with a music teacher who had taught at Berklee Coll. of Music. In 1979, she moved to Portland, Ore., and landed a secretarial job at Reed Coll. She befriended a girl singer and guitar player, Cyd Smith, who was then with a small swing band, Wholly Cats. She replaced Smith in the group in 1981, and began easing into a musician’s career, learning lyrics, chord changes, and stage presence. She met versatile drummer Hal Smith and trumpeter Chris Tyle while in Wholly Cats, sang with guest artists such as tenor saxman Scott Hamilton, and appeared on the radio with the band in 1983. After Wholly Cats disbanded in 1985, she freelanced with a number of groups, including a Western swing band, Ranch Dressing; a small Django Reinhart-styled combo, Everything’s Jake; and her own country-styled band, Beck-a-Roo. In 1992, she began singing with noted pianist Dave Frishberg at Portland’s Heathman Hotel, giving up her day job and turning full-time to music. Two 1994 record dates prompted national attention and subsequent invitations to jazz parties and festivals, with tours at home and abroad as guitarist-vocalist with Hal Smith’s Roa-drunners, and as member of another Smith-led group, The California Swing Cats. More record dates followed. In 1997, she appeared at the prestigious Jazz At Chau-tauqua, accompanied in various sets by pianists Dave McKenna and Keith Ingham, and bands fronted by Dan Barrett and Hal Smith. She continues to dazzle her audiences, making new fans wherever she appears.dlsc.:I Saw Stars (1994); Looking at You (1994); Not a Care in the World (1996); Rhythm, Romance and Roadrunners! (1996); Hal Smith’s Roadrunners, Vol. 2 (1996); Swing, Brother, Swing (1997); Stealin’ Apples (1997).
—John T. Bitter