Gay McIntyre, considered to be one of the greatest jazz musicians Ireland has ever produced, has passed away at the age of 88.
Mr. McIntyre died Tuesday morning surrounded by his family at his Londonderry home.
The alto saxophone and clarinet player has fascinated generations of fans, with a career spanning over 70 years.
He has played with some of the biggest names to ever honor the jazz world, including Acker Bilk, Louis Stewart and Nat King Cole.
Gay was born in Ballybofey, County Donegal on April 24, 1933 and baptized George Albert due to his English grandfather’s fascination with the royal family.
His family moved to Derry and Gay began playing music in his mid-teens, performing with bands in the ballrooms of Derry and Donegal.
Gay’s introduction to jazz came indirectly through his father, Willie, when he and his band played in the Corinthian ballroom during World War II.
With the strategic importance of the city’s port, military from the United States and Canada have inundated Derry, with the city having its “Yankee base”.
It was one of those military men who gave Willie McIntyre a Benny Goodman record which he took home to his son.
“This is for the rest of your life”
Speaking about the day he first heard the music, Gay said: “My mom loaded the gramophone, I had never heard four bars of the music before and I had tears in my eyes.”
“My mother said to my father: ‘Whatever instrument it is, we need to get him one.'”
Gay’s father, who was earning 27 shillings a week at the time, saved two years to buy a clarinet for his son.
“My dad handed it to me and said, ‘This is a clarinet and this is for the rest of your life,'” noted Gay.
Gay had his break on television, joining the band on UTV’s light entertainment program, Teatime With Tommy, led by pianist Tommy James.
Irish broadcaster RTE also called, meaning it was now appearing on television screens across Ireland.
Gay played until his late seventies when, in 2011, he recorded his first album, The Music Within Me, with the help of trumpeter Linley Hamilton.
“Every time he plays, you get, you get everything he feels, as a person, everything he saw, that made him angry, made him calm or made him love,” Linley said of Gay.
The offers for Gay have never stopped coming. He was one of the stars of the Derry and Cork jazz festivals and has also played in jazz festivals throughout continental Europe.
Retirement wasn’t in his vocabulary and, at 80, he reflected that his music was getting better and better.
“I have never received as many offers as in the last year. That happens to you at 80 is quite strange,” he said.
More recently, Gay has had fans – young and old – eating from the palm of his hands every week during his residency at Bennigan’s jazz club in Derry, where his solos, to this day, remain legendary.
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