And All That Jazz: 50 Years of Jazz in Ulster (Episode 1)

And All That Jazz: 50 Years of Jazz in Ulster (Episode 1)

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Bangor, Belfast, Glenarm




Transmission 31/12/1979


27min 53sec




1 inch



Digitised as part of the UTV Archive Partnership Project (ITV, Northern Ireland Screen and PRONI)


Department for Communities, ITV, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, UTV Archive

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Solly Lipsitz, or Mr Jazz as much of Northern Ireland knew him, presents this programme on 50 years of "jazz in Ulster". In this episode, Lipsitz goes through the first half of the semicentennial with archival footage of Northern Ireland at the time, with the key local players and enthusiasts providing insights on what the jazz scene here was really like. 

We open with one of Louis Armstrong's classics, set against scenes of Glenarm, a connection is made between this Co. Antrim village, which many are familiar with and the vibrant Jazz scene found in Chicago and New Orleans. The thing that ties these two seemingly disparate locations, is that the Glenarm Jazz band put on "a most successful dance" on the 26th April 1925 and, later, on the 12th November 1925, Armstrong's first recording was made; showing that Ulster was already keenly aware of this style of music.

Frank McKay, speaks about how Jazz disrupted the "old traditional way" of dancing and this, as is later explained in the programme, is the precursor for jiving. 

1930s Belfast was to show continuous development, from beginning to end, with a whole host of top performers gracing the stages of the city's grandest stages, particularly significant was the opening of the Ritz cinema in 1936 which could house up to 2,200 people. However, what paved the way for Jazz in Northern Ireland was the popularity of radio as a medium of mass communication with the BBC broadcasting a dance programme from luxurious venues across London every evening - a well appreciated escape from the realities of the depression!

Founding members of the Campbell Andrews Band, at the Belfast Royal Academy, give their account of how the group came together and the popularity of jazz listening groups is discussed by Jeremy McQueen. Though it was the arrival of the Second World War, and as a consequence, the American servicemen, which gave "reality to what, till then, was records, radio, and Hollywood".

Clubs in Belfast such as the Embassy, The Manhattan and the 400 were always busy but it was in Bangor, where an Australian band played, that provided the next important development of jazz in post WWII Northern Ireland. After this, venues started to properly draw on local talent for the playing of jazz.


Solly Lipsitz was born in Dublin in 1920 and moved at the age of 9 to Belfast. In the Northern Ireland of that era, Solly was a man apart. He was an active member of the, then, vibrant Jewish community, which once flourished in Northern Ireland and he was the fount of all jazz knowledge. 

He played for several local bands at one time or another, the Embankment Six and the Tony Martin All-Stars, to name but two. Opening Atlantic Records, in Belfast’s High Street, he would play a key role in inspiring young jazz musicians. More than just a record shop, throughout the 1950s and 1960s it became a gathering place and debating chamber for jazz enthusiasts.

A man of forthright views and considerable intellect, Lipsitz was highly approachable and became a lecturer at Belfast College of Art and Queen’s University Belfast. As a writer he established himself as an authoritative voice on jazz. For many years he was correspondent and jazz critic for the Belfast Telegraph and, at times, wrote for other newspapers and national jazz publications.

He once said that, ‘We should be proud that the art of jazz flourished In Ulster for two or three decades, that we own a small corner in the history of this music, that we manned for a while an outpost of the New Orleans tradition’


An Ulster Television production.

Acknowledgements to: Bill White, Brian Mayne, David Turkington, Denis McBride, Esler Crawford Photography, PRONI and Tom Taylor.

Devised and Written by Solly Lipsitz

Camera: John MacGaffin

Sound: Jim McGrirr

Narrator: John Keyes

Editor: Joe Lyttle

Director: Andrew Crockart



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