West Virginia-raised saxophonist Marian Kaul decided, after earning an M.A. in history from the District's branch of Antioch University, that she "really wanted to play saxophone, and that's what I've done ever since--and I wouldn't be able to necessarily do that in West Virginia."

That was a decade ago, a decade that has seen such a quantum leap in female participation in jazz that it is no longer startling to see women on the bandstand blowing horns. Kaul will be on the Blues Alley bandstand tomorrow evening, with the Port City Jazz Ensemble, a Baltimore-based group of which she is leader.

The seven performers came together three years ago as a short-lived CETA project, and "because it was so exciting to play in, we kept it going." Full-time musicians, each contributes to the band's book--original compositions and their own arrangements of works by John Coltrane, Freddie Hubbard, Marian McPartland and others. They made it into the Cellar Door before it closed, and have performed at the Smithsonian as well as with the Baltimore Symphony. Last year they won the Chesapeake regional song writers competition with Terry Plumeri's "Merging Traffic."