And All That Jazz: 50 Years of Jazz in Ulster (Episode 2)

And All That Jazz: 50 Years of Jazz in Ulster (Episode 2)

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Transmission 31/12/1979


27min 08sec




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 second 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.

The programme starts at a time when Northern Irish musicians had begun to take on an increasingly prominent role in what was being played and how it was being played. It was also at this time that a unique, new form of jazz, called trad, appeared. Trad jazz was a movement to revive the New Orleans Dixieland and it was to have a "very important effect in Ulster," inspiring a number of young musicians to take up jazz instruments. The Mayfair Cinema in Belfast put on a "midnight matinee" which gave a platform to these fledgling performers. However, despite the success of trad, modern jazz never really took hold in Northern Ireland.

One of major success stories of Northern Irish jazz was Rodney Foster, once a member of the White Eagles. He recalls when UTV made their first contribution to the national network for a New Years Eve programme and the band performed "When Irish Eyes are Smiling". Foster later formed his own band and recorded an LP with a major record company, the first local band to have done so.

The next challenge to jazz music's claim on young people's affections was Beatlemania, which quickly spread from England to Northern Ireland and led to a decline in popularity of the jazz scene. George Chambers, however, decided to put on shows in small pubs, mainly for the musicians' own pleasure. Though he thought the venture had little commercial potential, within three weeks the venues were packed.

Concluding the episode, Malcolm Gooding observes that, despite how "we play ourselves down," the standards of playing in Ulster was as good anywhere else in the UK.


Solly Lipsitz was born in Dublin in 1920 and moved at the age of 9 to Belfast. IIn 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: Esler Crawford Photography, Linenhall Library, James Masters, Brian Mayne, Doug Murray, Paddy Reid, David Turkington and Bill White

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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