posted Thursday 10th June
In England in the 1950’s it was almost impossible to hear ‘real’ jazz, the New York Jazz Scene was ‘the’ place to be. Musicians flocked from all over the world to the hub of the jazz universe. One of these musicians was from England, a superb saxophonist named Ronnie Scott. He had ‘worked’ his across the atlantic in the band on the ocean liner “Queen Mary” It was like arriving in heaven for the young musician….to be in a city where Dizzie Gillespie and Miles Davies were performing in adjacent venues, in 52nd street. One of the clubs he visited was the original Birdland where he heard Chet Baker, Erroll Garner and Sarah Vaughan. Over the next few years Ronnie Scott made frequent trips to New York and in 1959 eventually decided to start his own jazz club in the hub of central London.
That club is still there and thriving after 50 years of presenting the finest international jazz. Like Birdland its list of performers read like a ‘who’s who’ of Jazz. Stars like Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis, Jimmy Hendrix(who played his last gig there 40 years ago) Diana Krall, Jeff Beck have all played there, often alongside Ronnie Scott himself who used to compere and play in the evenings.
In celebration of its 1st 50 years Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club is making a return trip to Birdland, and for one night only we will be celebrating ‘All Things Ronnie’s’.
It has always been the tradition in the club to have two bands playing a night, a British band to open, and an international band for the ‘Main’ set. This would be a great way for musicians to meet and ‘hang’ with each other. A great example is when Miles Davis heard the young bassist Dave Holland at Ronnie’s playing in the opening group he consequently hired him for his band.
For the shows tonight we will hear a set from the regular Ronnie Scott’s house trio, led by pianist James Pearson. This set will give us a potted history of the club with some musical examples and anecdotes. Then the group will be augmented into a larger band, the “Ronnie Scott’s All Stars” and they will be joined by the internationally acclaimed singer China Moses, who lives in Paris. China comes from a great jazz heritage, being the daughter of Dee Dee Bridgewater. In addition to this there will an appearance from the vocalist Ian Shaw and some surprise guests.
Neither Ronnie Scott nor Pete King, his long term business partner and co-founder are with us anymore. However the club is very much alive and is in safe hands with its new owners Sally Greene- the producer of Billy Elliot the musical, and Jazz fan and philanthropist Michael Watt. They give the club the ‘love’ it deserves and keep the enthusiasm and energy levels truly high.
Ronnie would have loved this evening and have his name in the ‘Jazz Corner of the World’ He may not be here but his spirit will be!