Ronnie Scott

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Ronnie Scott
Ronnie Scott.jpg
Background information
Birth nameRonald Schatt
Born28 January 1927
Aldgate, England
Died23 December 1996(1996-12-23) (aged 69)
Genres Jazz
Instruments Tenor saxophone

Ronnie Scott OBE (born Ronald Schatt, 28 January 1927 – 23 December 1996) was a British jazz tenor saxophonist and jazz club owner. [1] He co-founded Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, one of the world's most popular jazz clubs, in 1959.


Life and career

Memorial to Ronnie Scott, Golders Green Crematorium Memorial to Ronnie Scott, Golders Green Crematorium.JPG
Memorial to Ronnie Scott, Golders Green Crematorium

Ronnie Scott was born in Aldgate, East London, into a Jewish family. [2] [3] His father, Joseph Schatt, was of Russian ancestry, and his mother Sylvia's family attended the Portuguese synagogue in Alie Street. [4] [5] [6] Scott attended the Central Foundation Boys' School. [7]

Scott began playing in small jazz clubs at the age of 16. His claim to fame was that he was taught to play by "Vera Lynn's father-in-law!". He toured with trumpeter Johnny Claes from 1944 to 1945 and with Ted Heath in 1946. [1] He worked with Ambrose, Cab Kaye, and Tito Burns. He was involved in the short-lived musicians' co-operative Club Eleven band and club (1948–50) with Johnny Dankworth. Scott became an acquaintance of the arranger/composer Tadd Dameron, when the American was working in the UK for Heath, and is reported to have performed with Dameron as the pianist, at one Club Eleven gig. [8]

Scott was a member of the generation of British musicians who worked on the Cunard liner Queen Mary intermittently from 1946 to around 1950. The ship would sail to New York City where they were exposed to Bebop, the new form of jazz being played in the clubs there. [1] Scott was among the earliest British musicians to have been influenced by Charlie Parker and other players of modern jazz.

In 1952, Scott joined Jack Parnell's orchestra and from 1953 to 1956 led a nine-piece band and quintet which included Pete King, with whom he later opened his jazz club, Victor Feldman, Hank Shaw, and Phil Seamen. He co-led The Jazz Couriers with Tubby Hayes from 1957 to 1959 and was leader of a quartet that included Stan Tracey (1960–67). [1]

From 1967 to 1969, Scott was a member of the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band, [1] which toured Europe and included Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis. Simultaneously he ran his octet, which included John Surman and Kenny Wheeler, and a trio with Mike Carr on keyboards and Bobby Gien on drums (1971–1975). Scott's other bands often included John Critchinson on keyboards and Martin Drew on drums. He did occasional session work, which included performing the solo on "Lady Madonna", the 1968 single by the Beatles, playing on Roy Budd's score for the film Fear Is the Key (1972), and performing the tenor sax solo on "I Missed Again", the 1981 single by Phil Collins.

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." [9] Scott recorded infrequently during the last few decades of his career. He suffered from depression. While recovering from surgery for tooth implants, he died at the age of 69 from an accidental overdose of barbiturate prescribed by his dentist.

Ronnie Scott's widow, Mary Scott, and her daughter, Rebecca Scott, wrote the memoir A Fine Kind of Madness: Ronnie Scott Remembered, with a foreword by Spike Milligan. The book was published in 1999 in London by Headline Book Publishing.

Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club

Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club at 47 Frith Street, Soho, London. Ronne Scotts.jpg
Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club at 47 Frith Street, Soho, London.

Scott is perhaps best remembered for co-founding, with former tenor sax player Pete King, 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. [10] 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. [11]

Scott regularly acted as the club's genial Master of Ceremonies, and was noted 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". Another memorable announcement was: "Next week we're proud to have a quartet featuring Stan Getz and violinist Stuff Smith. It's called the 'Getz-Stuffed quartet'." Ronnie often used in later days the services of John Schatt to book rock bands for Ronnie Scott's upstairs.

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.

In September 2013, while the club was being redecorated, a 12-metre-square hoarding was placed on the Frith Street façade as a tribute to its eponymous founder, bearing a giant photograph of Ronnie Scott by Val Wilmer, alongside one of his legendary one-liners: "I love this place, it's just like home, filthy and full of strangers." [12]

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
Ronnie Scott (tenor sax), Johnny Dankworth (alto sax), Hank Shaw (trumpet), Tommy Pollard (piano), Pete Chilver (guitar), Joe Muddel (double bass), Laurie Morgan (drums), Alan Dean (vocal)
Ronnie Scott Orchestra
– 1954, 1955
Ronnie Scott (tenor sax), Derek Humble (alto sax), Pete King (tenor sax), Hank Shaw (trumpet), Ken Wray (trombone), Benny Green (baritone sax), Victor Feldman (piano), Lennie Bush (double bass), Phil Seamen (drums)
Ronnie Scott Quintet
– 1955
Ronnie Scott (tenor sax), Hank Shaw (trumpet), Victor Feldman (piano), Sammy Stokes (double bass), Lennie Bush (double bass), Phil Seamen (drums)
Ronnie Scott Big Band
– 1955
Ronnie Scott, Pete King (tenor sax); Joe Harriott, Doug Robinson (alto sax); Benny Green (baritone sax); Stan Palmer, Hank Shaw, Dave Usden, Jimmy Watson (trumpet); Jack Botterill, Robin Kaye, Mac Minshull, Ken Wray (trombone); Norman Stenfalt (piano); Eric Peter (double bass); Phil Seamen (drums)
The Jazz Couriers

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 (tenor sax), Tubby Hayes (tenor sax, vibraphone), Terry Shannon (piano), Phil Bates (double bass), Bill Eyden (drums)
Ronnie Scott Quartet
Ronnie Scott (tenor sax), Stan Tracey (piano), Malcolm Cecil (double bass), Jackie Dougan (drums)
Ronnie Scott Trio
Ronnie Scott (tenor sax), Mike Carr (keyboards, vibraphone), Tony Crombie (drums, piano)
Ronnie Scott Quintet
Ronnie Scott (tenor sax), Dick Pearce (trumpet), John Critchinson (piano), Ron Mathewson (double bass), Martin Drew (drums)


As sideman

With the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band

With Victor Feldman

With Phil Collins

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. p. 1062. ISBN   1-85227-745-9.
  2. "Ronnie Scott, jazz's coolest Jew". The Jewish Chronicle . 3 July 2009 via PressReader.
  3. "A Fine Kind of Madness – Ronnie Scott Remembered".
  4. "Ronnie Scott".
  5. "Ronnie Scott: 1927-1996". Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  6. "JCR-UK - Alie Street Synagogue (Federation) - closed, Aldgate, London E1". Retrieved 25 March 2019.
  7. "Alumni". Central Foundation Boys' School. 2013. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  8. Combs, Paul (2012). Dameronia: The Life and Music of Tadd Dameron. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press. p. 102. ISBN   978-0472114139.
  9. "Ronnie Scott", Brian Priestley, in Carr et al.
  10. Robert Sandall, "Ronnie Scott's says goodbye sticky carpets – hello decent food and air conditioning", The Daily Telegraph , 24 June 2006.
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 5 May 2012. Retrieved 18 August 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. "Ronnie Scott's tribute to founder", The Daily Telegraph , 28 August 2013.