Gay McIntyre: Sax legend when jazz was king

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HOMAGES to Gay McIntyre records a man of enormous talent, considered one of the greatest jazz musicians Ireland has ever produced.

Although he was 88 when he passed away this week, age hasn’t stopped him from playing the alto saxophone and clarinet. In fact, he said that even at 80, he felt his music was getting better and better.

I can speak of him as a man who came regularly to Ulster Television studios, especially to be part of The white line as a member of the Billy White Quartet – Billy on piano, Norman Watson on guitar, Billy McAlpine on bass and Tommy Thomas on drums.

The 70s and 80s were the days when jazz was king. We got in there and we danced slowly, jazz was all moods and Gay was at the heart of it all, as Tommy remembers.

“We played together for three years and these shows were so popular they sold all over the network – in fact, I was able to buy my house because of them.

“He also performed in Tommy James shows. I remember one of the presentations by Tommy, a Cockney from London and little time in Northern Ireland: ‘And now for Mrs. Jennings in County Fur-man -a, Gay McIntyre on alto sax ‘.

“I honor the memory of many happy years playing with the inimitable Gay McIntyre, a huge loss to the Northern Irish jazz fraternity, but he leaves a legacy of inspiration to many young aspiring musicians. sincere condolences to Irene and her family. “

Gloria Hunniford spoke of her fond memories of being a professional, “reliable and fun to be around”.

“We used it on Good evening Ulster as often as possible for his superb acting and dry sense of humor. “

Candy Devine sent her thoughts from Brisbane, Australia: “I am so sad to hear of Gay’s passing. He was the leader of the talented McIntyre musical dynasty and a great ambassador of jazz. I loved working with Gay, especially on The white line with other jazz legends.

I was a production assistant at the time, working in the studio’s control room timing programs and on calls. Between the end of rehearsal and going on air, there was about half an hour to check the sound and lights, props and positions.

Coffee was often brought back into the studio while the cameramen and musicians – and I – sat as the boys started jamming, playing their jazz their own way and it was a joy to listen to.

Gay was in his element at these times, he was one of the people he cared about and they all understood each other without words.


Derry jazz legend Gay McIntyre has passed away at the age of 88. Photo by Margaret McLaughlin

He knew as a teenager that music was his life after he heard a Benny Goodman recording and his father saved up for two years to buy his son a clarinet. It was a valuable investment.

Her son performed with then-stars Acker Bilk, Louis Stewart and Nat King Cole, and traveled across Ireland from the Cork Jazz Festival to the Queen’s Festival when we all enjoyed the Guinness Spot, but specifically in his birthplace Donegal and his home in Derry.

The last time I met Gay was a few years ago at Café Vaudeville in Belfast. We sat in the opulent scarlet and gold frame of palm trees and pillars, and agreed that it was just the right background for two old friends to sit and remember.

There was a lot to say and like his life it was all about music.

We send our love and sympathies to his wife and family.

Anne Hailes


Even over coffee at Café Vaudeville in Belfast, Gay McIntyre had his precious saxophone with him. Photo by Anne Hailes


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