The Night I Carried Kathy Stobart’s Saxophone

Kathy Stobart, the jazz saxophonist who played with the Humphrey Lyttleton band with some of its best line-ups, died a week ago, aged 89. The only time I saw Stobart play live was a few years back with an Axminster based band (who are still going – I saw them again a couple of months ago). It was in my dad’s local pub (also her’s). Back then it was rather unreconstructed, brightly lit, and decorated like someone’s living room. We were very close to the band. Stobart was in her early eighties, and like many octogenarians, was perhaps a little shakier than she once was. She moved a bit stiffly, her jaw quivered, she looked as if she was a little breathless. Then she lifted the saxophone and blew with the most incredible energy and dexterity. Her playing was amazing, and it was the most incredible evening. It was a real privilege to hear her play.

Afterwards, we chatted, and I carried her saxophone out to the pub car park. It would only be a slight exaggeration to say this was half-way to her house (I guess the saxophone must have lived in her car).

Since I’m a big fan of Humph’s band, seeing Stobart play was already exciting. I later discovered that she was the inspiration for Alan Plater’s Blonde Bombshell plays, and coached Judi Dench for her role in the TV play (I’m also a huge fan of Alan Plater’s Beiderbecke series). If you don’t know Stobart’s playing, have a listen. If it doesn’t get your ears tapping, I don’t know what will.

Photo: The Ship Inn, Axmouth, by David Jennings CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See for more...

5 thoughts on “The Night I Carried Kathy Stobart’s Saxophone

  1. Saw Humph’s band in a double bill with George Melly. Melly told more filthy stories than actually sang. Both were absolute class despite their advanced years.

    1. Ooh, am proper jealous. Never saw Humph’s band live, or Melly’s. Seen the both live but not playing – went to maybe eight Clues chaired by Humph, and heard Melly give a talk. As you say, both were filthy and classy.

      Heard about Stobart’s passing from my Dad. You didn’t post this one on Facebook?

  2. I had the great pleasure to play with the City Lit Big Band when Kathy was the MD. She was a fantastic director and used to blow some terrific tenor solos. She was always approachable and friendly and had an inexhaustible enthusiasm for jazz. Happy memories – RIP Kathy.

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