Van Morrison mourns Mr Jazz

By Joe Cohen, April 16, 2013
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Belfast legend: Solly Lipsitz

Belfast legend: Solly Lipsitz

Irish musical legend Van Morrison was among those at the funeral of Belfast jazz and art aficionado Solly Lipsitz — known affectionately as Mr Jazz — who died at the age of 92 following a short illness.

Mr Lipsitz was passionate about jazz and wrote about it in a weekly column for the Belfast Telegraph. He had a reputation for speaking his mind and would make it abundantly clear if an artist or a piece of music was not to his taste. He played in a number of bands and opened the Jazz Club in Belfast, where his discoveries included Rodney Foster, who went on to achieve international acclaim. In the 1960s he owned a record shop in High Street Belfast which specialised in jazz and blues. During that period, he met one of his idols, Louis Armstrong, when he came to Belfast.

Mr Lipsitz was one of the few critics Van Morrison respected and he wrote the sleeve notes for some of his later albums. “It’s very sad,” he said. “Solly was like a family friend. My father used to take me to Atlantic Records every Saturday afternoon when I was just a kid. Solly was a key influential person in Belfast for getting the music here. Luckily I got to spend a lot of nice times with him in the last year.”

There were 100 mourners at the funeral at the Belfast Jewish Community’s Carnmoney cemetery on the outskirts of Belfast. Giving the address, community joint president Dr Dennis Coppel said: “The Belfast Jewish Community has had many characters but in Solly we had a celebrity and a character. He had a great sense of humour, a winning smile and hearty laugh.”

He had worked in his early years as a fitter in the shipyard Harland and Wolff, which he described as the “university of life”.

As well as his musical interests, Mr Lipsitz had a love of art and paintings, lectured on art and design and was an honorary member of the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts.

Last updated: 1:07pm, April 16 2013