Beginning with ‘On Green Dolphin Street’, the veteran Derry jazz man, playing alto saxophone at first, joined by Bennigans scene pianist John Leighton, NoCrows bassist Eddie Lee, and drummer David Lyttle, who has been recording in New York recently with Joe Lovano, hadn’t played in the Enniskillen theatre in many years not since the theatre’s founding director Eamon Bradley’s days at the helm. So it was a rare chance for a local audience on a moonlit evening to hear McIntyre, now a sprightly 81.
This was a ‘Reminiscing’-themed occasion with plenty of bebop (including ‘A Night in Tunisia’ and ‘Scrapple from the Apple’), and a good sprinkling of vocal numbers from new jazz singing star in the making Victoria Geelan. Resplendent in a green dress and sounding at times uncannily like a young June Christy, highlights of this aspect of the concert included ‘When I Grow Too Old To Dream’ bearing Vera Lynn’s version in mind, and later there was the more familiar ‘(There’ll Be Bluebirds Over) the White Cliffs of Dover’. Geelan picked up a shaker to add some extra percussion on a samba-fied ‘Summertime’, and she also sang in French the introductory verse of ‘Autumn Leaves’, a great touch, before switching to English.
McIntyre showed his command on trad-jazz clarinet on a strong version of Acker Bilk’s ‘Stranger on the Shore’, and although he left Leighton to do most of the stage announcements spoke to the audience at this point mentioning, having spoken to Acker on the phone recently, that Acker no longer travels or is playing the clarinet. In one introduction, in a lighter moment, Leighton quizzed the audience: “It’s a Harry Belafonte song, isn’t it?” when introducing ‘Scarlet Ribbons’ to a strong “Yes it is” from quite a few audience members.
McIntyre dedicated the encore ‘Danny Boy’ to the much-loved broadcaster Gerry Anderson, another Derry icon, who had played in Gay’s band and who died last month. Nobody can do the song better in a jazz version, and you couldn’t help but dry a tear from your eye listening to Gay’s moving version – a fine tribute. Stephen Graham
John Leighton, above left, Eddie Lee, Gay McIntyre, and David Lyttle (Victoria Geelan not pictured) at the Ardhowen theatre