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.