Peggy Gilbert, the world’s leading female jazz sax player and leader of several all-girl orchestras, died earlier this month after hip surgery in Los Angeles. She was 102. Growing up in Sioux City, Iowa, Gilbert was enamored of the jazz she heard on the radio, but when she wanted to play the saxophone, she was told girls could play only piano, harp, or violin. That didn’t stop her. In 1923, she formed an all-female jazz band, the Melody Girls, and went to LA. Over the years, the band’s name changed to Peggy Gilbert and Her Metro Goldwyn Orchestra and Peggy Gilbert and Her Coeds, and in 1974, when she was 69, she put together the Dixie Belles, a Dixieland band of older women that performed until 1998. Last year, Lily Tomlin narrated Jeannie Poole’s documentary, Peggy Gilbert & Her All-Girl Band. (Source)
Ms. Gilbert, who was divorced after an early marriage, is survived by her companion of more than 60 years, Kay Boley, a former vaudeville performer and contortionist she met when they appeared at the same nightclub.