RIP Kathy Stobart (1925-2014) - with a tribute from Jimmy Hastings

We are sad to hear the news that saxophonist Kathy Stobart has died at the age of 89. A central figure in British jazz, she started working with Humphrey Lyttelton in 1959. She told her story to Les Tomkins many years ago HERE.

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Her long-term colleague in Humphrey Lyttelton's band Jimmy Hastings writes:

I was first aware of Kathy Stobart when I read about her in the Melody Maker in the fifties. I seem to remember the article said something about the tenor saxophone being a rather masculine instrument for a woman to play! This, however didn’t detract from the glowing review they gave her. At the time this was just another name to add to the accumulating list of jazz musicians I was to know one day, although I didn’t realise it at the time.

The first time I saw her was in Bill Lewington’s shop but I was too nervous to talk to her. The second time was years later when I was playing at the Bull’s Head in Barnes when she came over and introduced herself!

It wasn’t until 1993 when I joined Humphrey Lyttelton’s band that I really got to know her. In the ten years or so I stood next to her in Humph’s band I don’t think I heard her repeat herself once and, to me, that is the sign of a very special jazz musician.

She wasn’t one for hours and hours of arduous practice so she never resorted to displays of technique but she held your attention with her originality making you wonder what she would come out with next - and she never disappointed. Then there was that huge sound she made.

As well as all that there was no shortage of sensitivity in her playing. Her version of Body And Soul would bring people in from the other bar in the Bull’s Head. I once asked her where it all came from and she said she didn’t know. She had no preconceived ideas about what she was playing - it just happened. A true artist.

She was married to trumpeter Bert Courtley with whom she had three sons Peter, Paul and David.

R.I.P. Kath.

Jimmy Hastings.


  1. Very sad news. She inspired so many new players and was a great educator, as well as a brilliant musician. RIP Kathy.

  2. David Freedman7 July 2014 at 17:52

    Thanks for this re-post. I knew her a little through one of her sons, and was involved in her 70th birthday gig at the 100 Club. A very warm lady and a fine player. A shame that most of the papers seem slow to obituarise her.

  3. First aware of her through 10" LP Kath meets Humph. A marvellous gem. Humph certainly knew how to pick sidemen (women) to push forward his direction in his music. She had great imagination and a lovely large expansive tone. Very sorry to hear she has passed away.

  4. Kathy gave me 2 of the 3 saxophone lessons I ever had. She also prescribed John Coltrane's album ballads and my Otto Link 7* mouthpiece (which I still use!)
    Thankyou Kathy x