She wore her hair in a short, dark bob. Her lipstick was bright red. After she sang a few sultry tunes, I approached her at the lively celebration with a delegation from Tours, France, and asked: "Are you sure you're not French?"
Christine Rosholt laughed, then did what she was famous for. She made me feel like I was the most interesting person in the world. She said she'd "friend" me on Facebook, which she did the next day. (I joined about 1,000 other friends and still felt rich.) Like so many others, I was eager to follow her rapidly ascending vocal career as it shifted from jazz to a new path in pop.
I wanted to write about her. But not like this.
Rosholt's considerable contributions will be center-stage Tuesday from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. That Rosholt took her life Dec. 28, one week before her 47th birthday, is an ache that legions of friends and fans will carry for a long time. But the Dakota event is a celebration.
"Everybody wants a chance to honor Christine," said pianist and friend Tanner Taylor, the event's organizer. "There's been such a great outpouring from all the local musicians."
Andrea Canter, a contributing editor to jazzpolice.com, first heard Rosholt sing in 2004 at the Dakota, and enjoyed following the charismatic singer's substantial growth. "She was self-taught," Canter said, and an incredibly hard worker.
"She took lessons, and found lots of ways to work on her voice and to explore her repertoire. She was a jazz scholar, too. She also went after the business end of things, finding herself gigs. She was not above taking anything. She really wanted to work."
And she always paid her musicians first.
Rosholt grew up in Minneapolis, attended the now closed Marshall University High School and trained at the Children's Theater Company School. "She was my talking piece," said Elizabeth Rosholt Winden, Christine's younger sister. "People would ask me a question and, before I could open my mouth, she'd answer for me."
While jazz standards filled their Minneapolis home, Christine was drawn to painting and photography. She studied at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, then at the Art Institute of Chicago. After Elizabeth's twin boys were born in 1999, Rosholt returned home and became a doting aunt and jazz mentor to Sam and Avery.
And she began to sing pretty much everywhere. Cafes and casinos, charity events and churches, jazz festivals and happy hours.
"She went from zero to 100 in almost no time," said Betsy Thayer, who became friends with Rosholt in the early 1990s. "She just decided, 'I want to be a singer when I grow up,' and she did it. She had a beautiful voice. She could mimic anything she heard. It was almost supernatural."
Rosholt's last recording, "Pazz" (marrying pop and jazz), was a collaboration with British songwriter Kevin Hall, long a Rosholt fan. They celebrated the CD release Dec. 1 at the Dakota. It was a scary departure for Rosholt, Thayer said.
"I don't know if she knew she could do it. Jazz has standards but, for pop, she had to make her own musical decisions. She said it was challenging."
Still, Thayer suspected nothing when she last saw her friend on Dec. 22. Others were equally shocked by her death.
"They'd say, 'I just called her.' 'We just made plans.' 'I just got an e-mail from her,'" Elizabeth said.
But Elizabeth knew her dear sister was in trouble. Christine, she said, never recovered from the death of their mother, Vicki, five years ago. "That just tore her up," Elizabeth said. One year ago, Christine's beloved Cairn terrier, Tally, died at 14.
"It was a hard Christmas because we all knew she was struggling," Elizabeth said.
Christine, who left a "pretty detailed note," was surrounded by people who loved her, but still felt alone. "She couldn't recognize that she was a great jazz singer," said her stepmother, Leah Harvey. Christine sang at the marriage of Leah and her father, Steve Rosholt, one year ago. "It makes you appreciate how much of it was things she couldn't conquer."
On Christine's cellphone, Elizabeth discovered that her sister had attached little stories about everyone whose number she had input, including how she met them and the way they looked. "She always remembered people."
Now people will remember her. The Dakota event (www.dakotacooks.com or 612-332-1010) features Christine's regular band, including Taylor, Dave Karr, Dave Jensen, Jay Epstein, Max Santiago and Graydon Peterson, and vocalists, including Nichola Miller, Arne Fogel, Sophia Shorai, Katie Gearty and Patty Peterson. The hope is for a night filled with more laughter than tears.
"Looking at pictures the other night," Harvey said, "there were really happy times. Christine turned events into occasions just by walking in the door."
There will be no cover charge at the Dakota Tuesday, but donations will be accepted for the Hennepin Health Foundation, Christine Rosholt Gift of Kindness Fund, 701 Park Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55415.
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