Historical records matching Ronnie Scott
About Ronnie Scott
The Man Behind The Club Copyright © 1999
The Scotsman, 1996
Ronnie Scott's rich, lyrical tenor saxophone style made him one of the two or three most significant musicians to emerge on the post-war British jazz scene, but he became even better known as the proprietor of one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world.
He was born Ronald Schatt in the east end of London, into a family of Russian Jewish descent on his father's side, and Portuguese antecedents on his mother's. His father, Joseph Schatt, was a dance band saxophonist who worked under the professional name of Jock Scott. He separated from his wife when Ronnie was a young child, and played little part in his son's upbringing, although their paths did cross again -- sometimes uneasily -- when Ronnie became a musician.
He was brought up by his mother, whose given name was Sylvia but was universally known as Cissie, and, from the age of 8, by his stepfather, Solomon Berger. As a teenager, an early interest in airplanes and flying was quickly overtaken by a fascination with music, and he took his first steps toward a musical career when he bought a semi-functional cornet, and shortly thereafter a soprano saxophone in similar condition, in a local junkshop.
Despite the failure of her marriage, Cissie saw no reason to hold her son back from following his father's career, and she and his stepfather encouraged his interest. The most significant manifestation of that encouragement came with their purchase of a tenor saxophone, his first decent instrument, and the one on which he would make his reputation.
He began to play in his local youth club, where he met like-minded youngsters like drummer Tony Crombie, and took lessons from Vera Lynn's father-in-law, saxophonist Jack Lewis. He worked briefly in stores selling records and musical instruments, and began to play his first semi-professional gigs in the East End. As well as being a staple dance band instrument, the tenor saxophone was central to Jewish musical activities, and Scott cut his teeth on barmitzvahs, weddings and youth club functions.
The lure of both jazz and the perceived glamour of the West End club scene grew ever stronger, even in war-torn London. Encouraged by band-leader Carlo Krahmer, who was able to discern some real promise in his still callow playing, Scott made his first tentative inroads into the world of professional music in 1943-4, and had his first taste of touring with a band led by the Belgian-born trumpeter Johnny Claes in 1945.
He joined the successful Ted Heath Band in 1946, but the jazz scene itself was now changing, as the pre-war big bands became economically less feasible, and the radical evolution of Bebop in the USA began to take hold on the younger generation of British musicians. Released by Heath (he was replaced by Scottish saxophonist Tommy Whittle) in early 1947, he and Crombie scraped together enough money to visit New York and see at first hand the developments now emerging on the early records of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
He found an early means to repeat the exercise when he was recruited as a musician on the newly refitted transatlantic liner the Queen Mary, in a band which also included alto saxophonist Johnny Dankworth. Back home and between subsequent cruises, he remained highly active on the London scene, and became involved in setting up the co-operative Club Eleven in Soho, which became the country's first club devoted solely to modern jazz when it opened on 11 December, 1948.
Although enthralled by Parker's music, the primary influence on Scott's own playing was the softer but still harmonically complex approach exemplified by the playing of Stan Getz and Zoot Sims, and it remained the core of his mature style. He played in drummer Jack Parnell's band in 1952, and then took the inevitable but long-postponed step to leading his own nine-piece group in 1953.
The band initially formed on a collective basis, but Scott was its undisputed leader. He utilised arrangements by their Scottish trumpeter, the late Jimmy Deucher, which combined dance band swing with bebop innovations in wonderfully effective fashion. Their debut coincided with a visit from Norman Granz's Jazz at the Philharmonic touring package to London, the first major American jazz show to beat the ban on visiting musicians since the war. Scott opened the shows, which had a catalytic effect on British jazz musicians and fans, with a sextet version of his new band, and was felt to have held his own against the stiff competition.
He led the nine-piece band until 1956 (with a brief expansion to a full-size big band in 1955, a decision he later described as "one of my worst ever"), and then co-led with saxophonist Tubby Hayes one of the most important of all British jazz groups, The Jazz Couriers, from 1957-9. Now well-established as one of the two or three leading British jazz musicians, Scott turned his attention to a venture that would make him even more widely known than his music.
The memory of the jazz clubs on New York's 52nd Street in those post-war visits had stayed with the saxophonist, and the experience of Club Eleven, however mixed, had done nothing to eradicate it from his mind. In 1959, Scott and a long-time associate, Peter King, a tenor saxophonist who had decided that playing was not the route to success, joined forces to open his first jazz club, with some financial aid from Scott's stepfather.
They had used the premises at 39 Gerrard Street on an occasional basis for concerts in the past, but when an opportunity to secure the lease cheaply came up, they decided to act. Ronnie Scott's Club opened on 31 October, 1959, with a bill which featured Scott himself, the Tubby Hayes Quartet, Jack Parnell (billed as making "his first appearance in a Jazz Club since the relief of Mafeking"), and a sensational newcomer on the London scene who shared a name with Scott's partner, alto saxophonist Peter King.
The club began a slow build toward international status. Zoot Sims, a personal favourite of the owner, was the first major American artist to play there in 1961, followed by Lucky Thompson and Dexter Gordon the following year, Roland Kirk in 1963, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt and Ben Webster in 1964, and Sonny Rollins in 1965 (all, not entirely coincidentally, tenor saxophonists). Scott continued to lead his own quartet throughout this period, with Stan Tracey as both his band and club pianist, and formed a more experimental eight-piece band with John Surman and Kenny Wheeler in 1968-9.
Running a jazz club brought endless problems, from dealing with the off-stage predelictions of their often unpredictable or just plain difficult artists to trying to convince skeptical rental companies that a grand piano supplied for pianist Bill Evans in 1965 would not meet a dreadful fate in what most dealers clearly still saw as a den of iniquity.
Major artists from all areas of the music were now appearing as a matter of course at the club, from Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson to more avant-garde figures like Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman, and it was relocated to its present premises in Frith Street at the end of 1965, where it is a world-renowned jazz centre.
It was not always plain sailing -- there were hard times, and the club was on the verge of collapse on more than one occasion. While King's no-nonsense administration did much to keep it afloat in times of real financial hardship, Scott was very much the figurehead of the enterprise. A visit on a night when he was away did not seem quite right without his famous deadpan delivery of unchanging jokes, while the cramped backroom, where he would play chess with like-minded guests, has harboured most of the world's great jazz players and singers at one time or another.
Scott never forgot his own struggles for acceptance, however, and the club's booking policy has always found room for British musicians, both the well-established and those in the formative stages of their careers. Scott himself continued to lead his own quartets, quintets and sextets, and also found time to play with the Boland-Clarke Big Band in the 1960s and 1970s. He remained active as a player until his death, and will be remembered with affection as one of the finest European jazz musicians of his era.
(28 January 1927 – 23 December 1996) was an English jazz tenor saxophonist and jazz club owner.
Life and career
Ronnie Scott (originally Ronald Schatt) was born in Aldgate, east London, into a family of Russian Jewish descent on his father's side, and Portuguese antecedents on his mother's. Scott began playing in small jazz clubs at the age of sixteen. (His claim to fame being, he was taught to play by "Vera Lynn's father-in-law!") He toured with Johnny Claes, the trumpeter, from 1944 to 1945 and with Ted Heath in 1946, as well as working with Ambrose, Cab Kaye, and Tito Burns. He was involved in the short-lived musicians' co-operative Club Eleven band and club (1948–1950), with Johnny Dankworth and others, and was a member of the generation of British musicians who worked on the Cunard liner Queen Mary (intermittently 1946–c. 1950) in order to visit New York and hear the new music directly. Scott was among the earliest British musicians to be influenced in his playing style by Charlie Parker and other bebop musicians.
In 1952 Scott joined Jack Parnell's orchestra, then led his own nine-piece group and quintet featuring among others, Pete King, with whom he would later open his jazz club, Victor Feldman, Hank Shaw and Phil Seamen from 1953 to 1956. He co-led The Jazz Couriers with Tubby Hayes from 1957 to 1959, and was leader of a quartet including Stan Tracey (1960–1967).
During this period he also did occasional session work; his best-known work here is the solo on The Beatles' "Lady Madonna". He was said to be upset at the amount of his saxophone that made the final cut on the original record. He also played on film scores, including "Fear Is the Key", composed by Roy Budd. He continued to be in demand for guest appearances in later years, such as providing the tenor sax solo on Phil Collins's 1981 hit single "I Missed Again".
From 1967–69, Scott was a member of The Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland Big Band which toured Europe extensively and which also featured fellow tenor players Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, at the same time running his own octet including John Surman and Kenny Wheeler (1968–1969), and a trio with Mike Carr on keyboards and Bobby Gien on drums (1971–1975). He then went on to lead various groups, most of which included John Critchinson on keyboards and Martin Drew on drums.
Ronnie Scott's playing was much admired on both sides of the Atlantic. Charles Mingus said of him in 1961: "Of the white boys, Ronnie Scott gets closer to the negro blues feeling, the way Zoot Sims does." Despite his central position in the British jazz scene, Scott recorded infrequently during the last few decades of his career. He suffered periods of depression and, while recovering slowly from surgery for tooth implants, died at age 69 from an accidental overdose of barbiturates prescribed by his dentist.
He was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium.
The author Joel Lane is Scott's nephew. Ronnie Scott's widow, Mary Scott, has a business representing musicians and lives in Brooklyn, NY. She and her daughter, Rebecca Scott, have written a book, "A Fine Kind of Madness: Ronnie Scott Remembered," with a foreword by Spike Milligan . It was published in 1999 in London by Headline Book Publishing.
Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club
Scott is perhaps best remembered for co-founding, with former tenor sax player Pete King, the Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, which opened on 30 October 1959 in a basement at 39 Gerrard Street in London's Soho district, with the debut of a young alto sax player named Peter King (no relation), before later moving to a larger venue nearby at 47 Frith Street in 1965. The original venue continued in operation as the "Old Place" until the lease ran out in 1967, and was used for performances by the up and coming generation of domestic musicians.
Scott regularly acted as the club's genial Master of Ceremonies, and was (in)famous for his repertoire of jokes, asides and one-liners. A typical introduction might go: "Our next guest is one of the finest musicians in the country. In the city, he's crap".
After Scott's death, King continued to run the club for a further nine years, before selling the club to theatre impresario Sally Greene in June 2005.
Selected band line-ups
As well as participating in name orchestras, Scott led or co-led numerous bands featuring some of Britain's most prominent jazz musicians of the day.
Alan Dean's Beboppers 1949 Ronnie Scott (ts), Johnny Dankworth (as), Hank Shaw (tp), Tommy Pollard (p), Pete Chilver (g), Joe Muddel (b), Laurie Morgan (d), Alan Dean (vocal). Ronnie Scott Orchestra - 1954, 1955 Ronnie Scott (ts), Derek Humble (as), Pete King (ts), Hank Shaw (tp), Ken Wray (tb), Benny Green (bs), Victor Feldman (p), Lennie Bush (b), Phil Seamen (d). Ronnie Scott Quintet - 1955 Ronnie Scott (ts), Hank Shaw (tp), Victor Feldman (p), Sammy Stokes/Lennie Bush (b), Phil Seamen (d). Ronnie Scott Big Band - 1955 Ronnie Scott, Pete King, (ts), Joe Harriott, Doug Robinson (as), Benny Green (bs), Stan Palmer, Hank Shaw, Dave Usden, Jimmy Watson, (tp) Jack Botterill, Robin Kaye, Mac Minshull, Ken Wray (tb), Norman Stenfalt (p), Eric Peter (b), Phil Seamen (d). The Jazz Couriers Ronnie Scott (ts), Tubby Hayes (ts, vib), Terry Shannon (p), Phil Bates (b), Bill Eyden (d). (On 7 April 1957, The Jazz Couriers co-led by Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott, debuted at the new Flamingo Club in Wardour Street, Soho. The group lasted until 30 August 1959). Ronnie Scott Quartet (1964) Ronnie Scott (ts), Stan Tracey (p), Malcolm Cecil (b), Jackie Dougan (d). Ronnie Scott Quintet (1990) Dick Pearce (tp), Ronnie Scott (ts), John Critchinson (p), Ron Mathewson (b), Martin Drew (d).
1948: Boppin' at Esquire (indigo) 1958: The Couriers of Jazz! (Carlton/Fresh Sounds) 1965: The Night Is Scott and You're So Swingable (Redial) 1965: When I Want Your Opinion, I'll Give it to You (Jazz House) 1969: Live at Ronnie Scott's (Columbia) 1977: Serious Gold (Pye) 1990: Never Pat a Burning Dog (Jazz House) 1997: If I Want Your Opinion (Jazz House) 1997: The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (Jazz House) 2000: Boppin' at Esquire (Indigo) 2002: Ronnie Scott Live at the Jazz Club (Time Music)