Jazz has been described as the mother of all hybrids, and yet it is the 20th Century's most enduring style of popular music. It emerged from a clash of cultures, white hymns and sounds from the black community. The U.S. was home to people from all over the world who had brought their music with them. The blending took place over a long period. Big jazz bands were the first ensembles since the symphony orchestra to utilize a full range of instruments. The combination of brass, reed and a rhythm section demanded the highest virtuosity, and yet there are no standards of absolute excellence.
Galway in the forties was known musically as 'A Bodhran Town'. Jazz introduced itself slowly here. The first live Jazz heard here would have been the Dixieland Combos that formed part of big bands like Des Fretwell, Pete Roxborough, Johnny Cox or Maxie Dooley. A Jazz Records Club used to meet in Poniards in Eyre Square, and in Dick Byrne's house to play records and discuss the music. The first Galway Jazz club where live music was played was in Frank Howard's basement in Ball Alley Lane. Noel Finan later tried a similar venture in the cafe in Seapoint, where you got tea and toasted brack as well as Jazz for your half crown. The music was supplied by Pete Roxborough's band, but, good as the musicians were, there was no real following for this type of music, and the event wound up.
Pete Roxborough played alto sax, and the rest of his line-up was Doris Wilson, singer; Geoff Vines, trumpet; Johnny Courtney, drums; Aidan McNally, baritone sax; Shay Nolan, lead trumpet; Dick Keating, piano; George Wolfe, trombone; Eddie Roberts, singer & saxophone; Denzil Davies & Christy Dooley, tenor sax; Gerry Kirwan, alto sax; Tommy Haford, trumpet; Frank Quinn, bass and John Buckley The first true Jazz band in Galway was formed about 1970, and comprised Christy Dooley, Cyril Dooley, Kieran Dooley, Jim Bull, Joe Curley and Aidan Foley. They played together as a pit band for a Taidhbhearc production of 'Threepenny Opera', and later did a gig in An Taibhsin. A researcher from The Late Late Show happened to be present, and invited them on to a show that was being screened live from Leisureland. They had no name at the time, so Gay Byrne christened them "All That Jazz".
This group expanded as our photograph shows. The musicians really enjoyed themselves as they indulged in Jazz, and played with great enthusiasm and style. For the audience, it meant live music like we had never heard before, and provided us with a unique Galway experience. This group, through their playing countless gigs, weddings, charity events etc. were really Galway's introduction to Jazz. They, and many other musicians, have continued to maintain a lively Jazz scene in Galway.
The city's first ever Jazz Festival gets under way tomorrow (Friday) and goes on until Sunday night. It has a very exciting programme of concerts and workshops which you will find at www.galwayjazzfestival.com or phone 091 537700. Enjoy!
- Johnny Cox & his band in the Hangar c. 1946. At the back are Dan Burroughs, drums & Paddy Tier, piano. In front are, Billy Davis, trumpet; Johnny Cox, trumpet; Vic Burgoyne, clarinet; Ernie Reynolds, sax.
- Des Fretwell & his band, c. 1950. Front row, L to R. Johnny Bourke, tenor sax; Vic Burgoyne sax & clarinet; Billy Flynn, clarinet; Gerrry Macken, trumpet; George Wolfe, trombone; Hugh Kelehan, singer. Back row, Jimmy English, bass & fiddle; Ronnie Bourke, drums; Des Fretwell, piano.
- The Arabians, late 1950s. from the left: Vic Burgoyne, sax; Kieran Dooley, trombone; Jimmy Cox, clarinet; Jimmy Dooley, drums; Tim Colleran, vocals; Cyril Dooley, comet & Maxie Dooley, piano.
- All That Jazz, early 1970's. in front, Jimmy Dooley, drums; Christy Dooley, Clarinet; Larry Cooley, banjo; Martin Conneely, piano; Back Row, Shay Nolan, trumpet; Kieran Dooley & Jack Farrer, trombone; Cyril Dooley, comet and Jim Bull, bass.