Play me that jazz hot, baby

Peggy Gilbert, jazz musician and bandleader, died Feb. 12 at the astonishing age of 102.

“Performing on saxophones, clarinet, violin, vibes, plus singing, arranging, and booking and contracting for women musicians, Peggy Gilbert was a one-woman support network and staunch advocate for women since the 1920s. She performed publicly on the tenor saxophone more than 80 years, until 1996, and inspired and mentored several generations of musicians.”

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She was best known for the Dixie Belles, who performed on various sitcoms and The Tonight Show. I hope I have this much fun in my old age:

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Gilbert is the subject of a documentary, Peggy Gilbert and Her All-Girl Band, narrated by Lily Tomlin. Check the Web site for screenings and further info.

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Her life should make for a fascinating film. Playing jazz sax wasn’t exactly a ladylike occupation in the 1920s — her high school refused to help her learn it. So she taught herself, and then made it her mission to help other women get into the groove.

Gilbert is survived by her companion of more than 60 years, Kay Boley, a “former vaudeville performer and contortionist whom she met when they appeared at the same nightclub.” Now, I really hope I have that much fun in my old age.

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