Documentary on the London jazz venue. In 1959, young saxophonist Ronnie Scott opened a club where he and his friends could play, which became the heartbeat of British jazz.
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Hello, Ronnie Scott's club.
Yes, we're open tonight.
What time do we open? Well, what time can you get here?
No, you can wear what you like. Just wear a tie.
Nothing else, just a tie.
'"As I listened to the sweet and soothing sound,
'"I once again reflected, 'thank the Lord I was born into the jazz age.'
'"What on earth could it have been when all they had to listen to
'"was ballad tunes and waltzes?
'"Because jazz music is a thing, that as few things do,
'"makes you feel really at home in the world here.
'"As if it's an OK notion to be born a human animal."
'Colin MacInnes' nameless narrator in Absolute Beginners,
'explaining why jazz was crucial to his education.
'MacInnes' cult novel of the late '50s also described Soho,
'which he loved as much as jazz, with the words,
'"All the things they say happen, do."
'Teenagers have been making the weekend pilgrimage up west
'since the notion of teenagers was invented,
'hoping it was all true. Converging on the centre
'from the asteroid belt of Southgate or Purley.
'Hoping to live your life in one night.
'Of course Soho didn't give you everything, but it promised a lot.
'It seemed to say that you could
'leave behind the person you were supposed to be in the suburbs
'and start again in another dimension.
'And in a lot of cases, you might have been taken on that escape route
'by some of the most exciting sounds of the 20th century,
'the sounds of jazz.'
'I've always admired Ronnie for what he's done and been thankful for the sake of British jazz.'
And for world jazz that he's done it.
Because if you mention jazz to any American anywhere, any jazz fan
anywhere in the United States or Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong.
Perhaps the first thing they'll make an effort at connecting with you,
if you say you are from England or if they know you're from the United Kingdom,
they say, "Ah, I've been to Ronnie Scott's."
It's synonymous with jazz in this country.
Politicians lead the life of night club pianists I always think,
in terms of hours. I mean we tend to work late into the night
and the voting is usually late at night, the house sits at night.
Eh, you've got to be a bit of a late night person to be a politician.
If you get relaxation out of jazz, if you get excitement out of jazz,
if you can switch off and concentrate on jazz
after a day on quite different things,
then this is the place to come.
It's coming home, it's a little nest of happiness.
It's good sounds, sounds that heal.
All the recent wounds are all healed here at Ronnie Scott's
because there's always somebody blowing something beautiful,
talking a kind of um... unconscious poetry,
that only good music can speak to you.
'Capturing the bird in flight.
'This time the Chicago saxophonist Johnny Griffin
'is caught by the lens of David Redfern whose images you see all over the club.
'A visual history of this place called Ronnie's.'
# There will be other lips that I may kiss
# Uh, uh, um
# They won't thrill me like yours used to do
# Say I may dream a million dreams
# But how can they come true
# If there will never, ever be
# Another-oho-oho-other you... #
# I never go back to Georgia
# Cos I like London, aah... #
Can you remember when you first met Ronnie Scott?
I remember that one really well because I went by the club
and I was coming down them little steps and fell.
Oh man, you know on them iron steps?
I hurt my leg. I was mad with Ronnie Scott ever since.
And now, you know, he's a very good, close friend and he's funny too.
'But Ronnie had done a tremendous job about the promulgation of our music.
'He's always had somebody in there, some of the younger guys,
'the older guys and he plays there. Ronnie does a terrific job with that club.'
'Frith Street, Soho. Ronnie Scott's isn't the hole in the wall it used to be,
'but a big sophisticated west end nightclub.
'Dependant now, on lucrative passing trade
'as well as hard core jazz fans.
'One thing that hasn't changed in 30 years is that Scott,
'armed with a tenor saxophone and a wisecrack,
is still earning his keep.'
Thank you and good evening, ladies and gentleman, on behalf of the quintet.
That's Dick Pierce on the trumpet and flugelhorn, Martin Drew on the drums,
Ron Mathewson on the bass, John Critchinson on the piano and myself.
Five musicians who brought a great deal of pleasure to very few people.
And that one was for a gentleman who asked for The Yellow Rose Of Texas.
But I hope he enjoyed that cos it does have a lot of the same notes in it.
Little touch of humour there.
I come from a very poor family in the east end of London.
We really were desperately poor.
Had to buy all our clothes at a war surplus store.
Let me tell you it was no fun for a nine year old Jewish kid to have
to go to school in the east end wearing a Japanese admiral's uniform.
'Ronnie Scott was born Ronald Schatt in Aldgate in 1927.
'Via the traditional route of Jewish youth clubs and bar mitzvahs,
'the young Ronnie learned the ways of musicians.'
My first saxophone lessons were from a guy called Jack Lewis
who was an old, retired, dance band saxophone player.
And he had a son called Harry Lewis,
who was a professional saxophone player,
who ended up marrying Vera Lynn. And so, that's my claim to fame.
I took lessons from Vera Lynn's father-in-law.
'The first instrument I ever bought was a cornet, which I bought
'from an antique shop and then I got a very old soprano saxophone,
'I mean a really old one with a double octave key.
'The double octave key went out at around 1827.
'I thought "God this is difficult." And then my parents saw that
'I was serious about trying to play something and they bought me a tenor saxophone.'
'During the early war years, Ronnie Scott and his friends
'hung out with all the professional musicians they could, hoping for the big break.'
'Well the first job what I got, I think one of those places was at...
'a place called The Jamboree'
and Carlo Krahmer was the band leader and they had a very good band there.
And as I remember, the tenor saxophone player in the band was leaving
and his replacement couldn't start for two or three weeks.
And Carlo asked me if I'd fill in for those two or three weeks.
And I told him "Look, I've only been playing a year or 18 months,"
or whatever it was. I was about 16-17 years old.
And he said, "Well it doesn't matter,
"I'm contracted to present six musicians."
And the band says, all you've got to do is sit there.
And so that's what I did for two or three weeks, virtually just miming.
'Carlo was a great collector and a very knowledgeable musician
'and he had one room which was lined with records.
And we used to go round there occasionally
and listen to the latest imports which he managed to get.
And that was the first time I heard Charlie Parker play,
I'd heard of Charlie Parker,
Red Cross I think was the name of the track as I remember.
It just seemed to be the right... contemporary way to play, you know.
It's very difficult to put into words, but it turned us all around.
'Charlie Parker and the new jazz became a symbol of protest
'for an entire generation.
'For a lot of young Britons, Parker's music seemed to be a vision of the future.
'But it could only be experienced through records.
'Though his fire sprang directly from the beleaguered black American culture that had spawned jazz,
'Parker appealed to outsiders everywhere.
'The hipster was born, embracing bebop culture as an antidote
'to the elitism of European high art
'and the often maudlin pop music of the day.'
Well, I suppose we were always...
'Here are three hipsters, part of Ronnie Scott's circle,
'whose lives were changed by Charlie Parker.'
Don't forget that when bebop came out the Melody Maker's chief critic,
Edgar Jackson, said um... "this is a load of rubbish.
"Charlie Parker can't play his instrument.
"This isn't modern harmony, it's wrong notes."
-And so he damned it right from the off.
-That's true, yeah.
And so because it was damned in the eyes of the musical establishment,
because we were trying to play this, we were unemployable.
I mean this is why we had to form our own scene.
That's right, still are!
THEY ALL LAUGH
Well, I think what had happened was we'd recognised a language,
a musical language, that was for our time.
That was our time.
And we just took to it like that.
That's why I say I don't... I mean, when I first heard Ronnie,
Ronnie was always playing, was always playing that way.
Not exactly bebop, but that was the road it was going down.
And he had the technique and the power to play it.
There was never any question of being a kind of player now, and then a different player.
It just grew, didn't it? Just went on.
-It was the same for all of us.
-And it wasn't just the music.
I mean, the same thing happened in art.
You look at the Jackson Pollocks and the Mark Rothkos and those kind of people,
who broke away from the previous static forms of painting.
They went on a similar path. I suppose the war must have been
the big catalyst, really, for the whole thing.
-War always creates a revolution.
-Well it smashed all the existing values,
they all went out of the window.
'The union ban meant you couldn't hear American artists
'like Parker, Lester Young or Billie Holliday in the flesh.
'If you couldn't raise the fare to the States, but knew your way around a dance band song book,
'one way was to get signed up for Geraldo's Navy -
'the orchestras that entertained transatlantic passengers.
'It may not have meant playing the music you dreamed of,
'but it took you to the Holy Grail of New York's jazz clubland - 52nd Street.'
'The boat docked at pier 90, I think it was.
'Which was right, virtually at 52nd Street.
'So we get off the boat, down the gangway and then look up.
'And on the lamppost, you know those famous lamppost signs?
'It said 52nd Street, and we thought what?!'
The little brownstone buildings all had cellars and basements
and they were all clubs on either side of the road.
And outside each club there was a doorman with his hat and uniform,
looking a bit tacky I suppose, but saying, "Come one fellas now, Lady Day just going on."
Another one saying, "Dizzie's Big Band going on fellas, no cover charge."
I mean, it was just like fairyland.
All these people that you had always wanted to hear all your life and you
had to choose which one, you couldn't hear them all at the same time.
'To the young jazz tourists, New York meant cliffhanging music,
'un-rationed luxuries, hip fashions and the feeling that the distance
'between dreams and fulfilment was shorter than it was in London.'
'When they came back, it seemed to be to a community of musicians that were stuck in the past.
'They met, gossiped and exchanged work, commercial work not jazz,
'in Archer Street off Piccadilly - an open air job centre.
'The young players tried to create their own world for their own music.
'Like the short-lived Club 11 at the beginning of the 1950s.'
'Throughout that decade, adventurous jazz and dance band music lived uneasily side by side.
'But the beboppers began to win a new audience.
'Ronnie Scott, by this time the most highly regarded saxophonist in Britain,
'started to lead successful bands of his own,
'over the years steadily reducing the proportion of schmaltz required to get work.
'In 1957, he formed an all out jazz band, The Jazz Couriers,
'with the prodigious young saxophonist Tubby Hayes.
'When The Couriers folded,
'Scott and an old playing partner, Pete King, teamed up again.
'This time not for a band, but for an old Scott dream of home.'
The club was never intended to be what it's turned out to be.
It was somewhere for us to try and improve and try and develop our music.
Because what we were doing, we were earning a living playing in dance bands,
but we really didn't get a chance to play.
And it was, really, getting the chance to play and maybe have
a decent piano and a microphone and maybe a light or something.
And that's all we really set out to do.
'On October 30th, 1959, Ronnie Scott's club opened
'in a basement in Gerrard Street, in the heart of China Town,
'where the strongest drink was stewed tea,
'the dressing room was a cubbyhole
'and the attractions were strictly local musicians.'
This is the site of the first club and what a sight it is.
It was 39 Gerrard. We had kind of a Heath Robinson awning
that went up here and covered the stairs which we had to roll up and take away every night.
This used to be a taxi driver's all night hang out thing with a little coffee bar.
And they used to come down here and play cards, the cab drivers.
And I think, as I remember, on Sunday afternoons, they used to run some things.
-Yeah, and Saturday nights.
-Saturday nights, yeah.
And the landlord, a guy named Jack Forder, was an ex-cab driver.
Eh...wasn't doing very well, the place,
and he asked us if we would like to take it over full-time.
Which we did. Paid the rent which was something like,
I don't know, £12 a week? Something like that.
How did you furnish the place the first time around?
Very sparsely, if I remember correctly.
-Eh, just chairs and a few...
-We went down the east end, I remember.
-The east end, yeah.
To a wholesale, kind of furniture manufacturer
and bought, I don't know, 50 or 60 chairs.
-And we...hired a piano, I think?
-Yeah, we did, yeah.
-Hired a piano.
-Had trouble getting the piano downstairs.
And... Sorry. Two and six all night.
And we hired some sound equipment and painted everything white.
Everything in sight was painted white.
And we opened, went from there.
'At its gayest and brightest, the west end has
'the real look of Christmas.
'Movies, theatres, restaurants do their part to see
'that a good time will be had by all. So why should anyone worry?
'There's certainly nothing disturbs the minds of the happy folk
'who are starting out on a jolly evening.
'But only a stone's throw from the bright lights, it's a different story.
'This is Soho, catering for all tastes, low included.'
'Well you have to remember, in those days, the situation of jazz musicians
'was a powerless one. You could play jazz,'
but you had to work for people that...
They called themselves jazz club proprietors, what they really were
were petty felons, most of them. And they would hire a room,
hire musicians, give them thrupence each and pocket the proceeds.
They were nothing to do with music.
They were going to sell music cos it made money, that's all.
'So when Ronnie finally formed a club it was a revolutionary thing to do
'because there had never been a club where when you went to work
'you were working for one of the fellas. There had never been that, ever.
'Not in the history of British music.'
'From 1959-1961, Ronnie Scott's club served the local jazz scene.
'But eventually, to cover the rent, the club began to need stars with more rarity value.
'Which at that time meant Americans.'
'Union regulations about foreign players were the stumbling block,
'but Pete King eventually broke the impasse bringing in Zoot Sims,
'one of the most relaxed and elegant members of the 1940s Woody Herman band,
'to be the first of a dazzling list.'
'Apart from it being an education for everybody, it was somehow
'an accolade for the club. It made the club a more serious business.
'This was still in Gerrard Street where it was still a very pokey little hole.
'And I remember, I mean, how insufferable people are.
'You brought down Zoot Sims, Ben Webster,
'Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, everybody and there were complaints?!
'Why do you only bring saxophone players down?
'Why this policy? And Ronnie said,
'"You go open your club and invite who you want.
'"In the meantime, the world's greatest saxophone players
'"are being paraded through for our benefit.
'"It's a fantastic business."
'It made the club something very much more
'than a local, parochial thing.
'It put it on a European, and eventually the world, map.'
'The first group as such that we had was the Bill Evans Trio.'
And when Bill arrived... Well before Bill arrived,
we decided that the piano we had wasn't good enough for Bill Evans.
So we sold it I think, just a couple of days before he was due to arrive,
with the idea of hiring a piano from a firm that was in the vicinity.
And we...arranged a week beforehand what piano we wanted.
And they arranged that they were going to deliver it and so on.
And then, a representative came down from this piano hiring place,
took a look at the premises, and said well...
This is the day before Bill Evans is due to open.
And we got no piano and he said "Well no, I'm sorry.
"We can't hire you a piano." I said, "Well, why not?"
"If you take it down the stairs, it's liable to get damaged."
Then, "I didn't know it was a jazz club."
And I think he had visions of people pouring beer into the piano
and girls laying on it. I don't know what he thought would happen to it.
'And finally I remember Pete saying to him "Look, bugger off."
'Or words to that effect, you know.'
'But in the end we managed to find a piano belonging to someone or other.
'A nice grand piano. But, I mean it was a very last minute thing
'I was just wondering what the Bill Evans Trio were going to do without a piano?
'Maybe Bill would dance or sing or something.'
'In those early days, most of the American soloists came alone and needed local accompaniment.'
'For seven years the house pianist at Ronnie Scott's was Stan Tracey --
'a gifted improviser and composer in his own right.'
-Oh, I don't believe...
-What was that?
-It's a string gone.
-They just tuned it.
-Don't tell Pete.
-Just like the old days!
-Just like the old days.
What is it like working in here these days?
I cannot tell a lie, I preferred working in the old place.
Um... For me it was more adventurous. I suppose, I mean, it had to be
because the whole situation was new, working with those guys
and the whole atmosphere was different.
'Which of those players did you feel the happiest with?'
'Well, there were several I felt very happy with,
'but the one that stands out above all the others for me, was Sonny Rollins
'for his inventiveness. You know, night after night.
'You never really knew what to expect. For instance,
'there was one night we played Three Little Words for the first set complete, about an hour.
'Had a break and came back on. And played Three Little Words for an hour.
'And there was so much invention going on that it really didn't matter.
'You know, it was quite a fantastic gig...experience.'
'That was my first experience in England, playing at Ronnie Scott's.'
And actually if you recall,
the club at that time was on German Street?
-Gerrard Street, sorry.
And it was in the basement,
so it was very similar to a lot of clubs in New York in a way,
that are down in the basement, you know.
it was pretty much like a lot of jazz clubs, you know.
Small, comparatively small. Um...
Crowded, you know, and the cigarette smoke
and all of this stuff, you know.
So it was... I felt quite at home there, actually.
Stan Tracey tells the story of the first rehearsal he remembers with you
when you came in and the band was waiting there.
-And you asked for Prelude To A Kiss, I think.
And, as Stan remembers it, you played it all afternoon
and then never asked for it at any point on any of the shows.
Is that the way you often rehearse with a band?
Well it's possible because I was probably trying to hear the band
and let them hear me and...
Sort of get an idea of my approach.
A lot more so than actual songs that we would play,
because of course, I like to play in a spontaneous manner.
It's possible that we did that, yeah. Yeah.
'You know there was a lot of people there doing an engagement.
'It was really packed every night.
'And you know, when you play music into a club,
'you know, the music stays in the walls.'
'And when you walk in there you can feel some of the music
'that's been played there for all these years ago.'
'So that night, even though we had stopped playing, the music was still...there,
'everything was still there. You could feel it all there, you know?
'So then I asked Ronnie and Peter, I said, "Look, let me stay down here and I'm going to write some music.
'"I'll be quiet. There won't be anybody here and I can work and the atmosphere's perfect."
'So they said, "OK." And everybody went home and locked the doors.
'And most of the score and the sketching for Alfie was done right in the club.'
'"Are they all like that?
'"Are all who like what?
'"Jazz musicians, do they all inhabit another galaxy?
'"He seems to have a little trouble making contact
'"with life as we know it on the planet Earth.
'"I guess he's got tunes
'"going on in his head all the time. Conversation comes second.
'"That's why he talks in quotations a lot of the time.
'"We all do. All our best lines are nicked from Duke Ellington or Ronnie Scott.
'" 'Have a nice life,' is Ronnie's. 'Love You Madly,' is the Duke's.
'"Music's the real way of speaking.
'"All the rest is just filling in time between gigs.
'"And that's jazz.'
Hello, Dorothy. How are you?
Friday and Saturday at six?
'Misterioso is my first proper, grown-up novel.'
It's also the title of a piece of music by Thelonious Monk.
The novel deals in part with jazz and jazz clubs and that kind of ambience.
And what I've tried to do in writing about jazz,
is to try to crack the riddle of what happens? You know, why...
I think jazz musicians are like writers in the sense that
you don't actually choose to be one, it chooses you.
And having been chosen, you don't really have too much choice.
I think the other thing we have in common is that we're confronted
with the equivalent of a blank sheet of paper.
In our case, in a writer's case, a real blank sheet of paper.
And what I know is, I'm going to write a scene or a group of scenes.
And I know there is a theme which you're going to carry out.
And if you're going to develop over 32 bars, let us say,
but I don't know what the notes are and I'd sit at the typewriter.
And I'd play the notes that developed that theme.
'And as Lester Young used to say, it's about telling a story.'
'In 1965, the club moved to the current plusher and bigger premises
'in Frith Street.'
'Gerrard Street just became too small, you know, if we wanted to do anything at all ambitious.
'I mean, Gerrard Street was the kind of place that you had to pack
'the place every night to pay the rent.
'And very often we were packed and still didn't pay the rent.
'So we had to move to somewhere bigger.'
But the night we opened, I remember there was no electricity here,
or very little electricity. I mean only a few things were connected
like the amplification was connected and that was about all.
-We had candles...
-..on all the tables.
-Wires were hanging down all over the place.
It's amazing the GLC then,
passed us to allow us to open, actually.
Yeah. And there was no... There was no distinction between
the gents and the ladies toilets, I remember. Very bohemian.
You know, really very French.
But people took it very well, you know. And it worked.
-Yusef Lateef and Ernestine Anderson...
-Anderson we opened with.
-Yeah, that's right.
-It was great. Great music.
When Buddy Rich came down, you were undergoing some more building work.
What happened then?
We took on the extra part of the club as it is now.
Buddy's band opened and I remember Howard coming down
a couple of days prior to it saying, "Oh, God. We've got to cancel."
"You'll never be open in time," you know.
I remember Buddy saying on the microphone when he opened
that it was the first time he'd ever worked in a garage.
-In a condemned building.
-Was it condemned building? Oh, right.
Who put the lights out? All right, West Side. Here we go.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight.
Believe it or not, ladies and Jews, he's here!
The comic of the century, the legendary...yes! Mel Brooks!
Yes, I'm here at Ronnie Scott's because he promised
ten visits here for nothing if I do this cockamamie show.
-You were a drummer...
-I was a drummer before I was a comic.
How did you first hear about it?
Ah... I first heard noise coming out of a window in Brighton Court.
Brighton Court, you say?
No-no. Not Brighton by the sea.
Not Brighton Pavilion furniture.
Brighton. Jews! Coney Island! Brooklyn.
'There was a lot of noise coming out of a window.
'I was walking past with my friend Bobby.
'So we looked in the window and there was this Jewish Aborigine
at the drums. Sweat flying, sticks going.
'That was maybe the greatest hour of my life.'
'But Ronnie Scott's, he was great here.
'This is a great room for him. He heard himself properly, you know?'
And he could do very pretty things here
and he didn't have to be too loud, you know?
This is a great place, a great place for Buddy to play.
You made The Producers, which is about bad businessmen
-trying to be good businessmen by a round about route.
-Do you think...
-Do you think that's what Ronnie's doing?
-Well he's often said...
-He's making money on his taxes?
-No-no I don't think it's like that.
He says it would be a disadvantage to be a good businessman in the jazz business.
-You would be a fool.
-If you knew about business you wouldn't bother.
You couldn't break even. Right. Never.
You would never be able to pay the musicians,
the help at the bar, the people who clean up at night,
the waiters, the busboys, the waitress.
You could not... You can't.
Because you can't ask them to pay enough money to cover your nut.
Ever. You can't do it. I mean... It's a losing proposition.
'But Ronnie lives for jazz. He lives for the sound of horns
'and glissandos on keyboards and, I mean, he lives for that.
'I mean he's... He's like I am.
'I mean, he's a Jew freak who cannot live without great jazz music, you know.'
'Good afternoon, Ronnie Scott's.'
'The club is the most peculiar thing. When you're running a...
'When you're running a club for music and not for money,
'you don't set any budgets like normal, sensible businessmen would do.
'You just go ahead and do the thing and somehow or other
'you hope it's going to work, you know. And there were times
'when you thought "Oh, good Lord. I think we might have cracked it this time."
'And no sooner you think that, pop!
'And about six or so years ago we'd gotten very behind with the VAT,
'the PAYE and things like that.
'And it looked as though we were going to have to pack it in.'
I remember when the chains were going to go on the door
and the accountant turned round to Ronnie
and we were having this sort of final crunch meeting.
The accountant said, "Look, you've got to stop."
And Ronnie looked at me and said, "Well, do we stop?"
"Now? What do we do, Pete?"
And I don't know whether it was the horror of not knowing
what was going to happen, it was too late for the self-greed
or whatever it was that made me say it or...
But it was just a gut feeling.
I said, "Look, Ron, we can't stop. We've got to go on."
And Ronnie looked at the accountant and said, "No, we're going on."
Some of the people who came in the club, they were part of the underworld fraternity
-in this district during the years.
-Including Albert Dimes.
Well, yeah. Well Albert Dimes was the kind of Godfather, at that time.
And I knew him simply because he was a friend of my father's.
And they used to go racing together, you know.
Um... And when we opened here
he bought us a magnum of champagne.
This was in 1965, he bought us a magnum of champagne. It's over there.
And he said when you're out of debt, open the bottle, you know.
It's still unopened, you know, but I think we may open it shortly.
Or auction it at Sotheby's.
Or just keep it. I think we'll just keep it.
'If you're in the jazz business, you're not going to be a rich man'
'That's not quite the exercise.'
They used to say if the musicians had spent
the same amount of energy and time and study and application
studying accountancy, they'd all be millionaires.
Which I think is probably true.
There's no more dedicated or hard-working person.
Although they would often deny that.
They're the only idealists I've ever come across, as it happens.
'And I know all kinds of writers and actors and politicians.
'I only ever met idealists in the jazz world, nowhere else.'
'Quite good thank you, Prime Minister.
'So shall we press on with affairs?'
'Stuff the affairs of the nation, I want to cook.'
'Malcolm Warren from the Press Office would like a word.'
'Oh, right. Bring him in.'
'Good afternoon, Prime Minister.'
'Good afternoon, Malcolm. I'm expecting the cabinet secretary
'any moment so could you keep this brief?'
I try to keep up to date, but I'm afraid my present job's interfering.
I've become a less regular attender at Ronnie's in the last 12 months.
Once I've got the health service sorted out I shall start coming back.
'But I've wound up debates against John...
'I can't go to sleep when I've wound up a debate, the adrenaline's going.
'And the driver's driven to Ronnie's when I left the house.'
He knew I wasn't going to go home
and I've spent the night unwinding and relaxing.
Hi, have we closed anymore hospitals down?
Not in your patch, but good to see you on neutral ground.
John, we've been talking about interests in jazz and so on.
Now, I'm like Ken. I'd probably like to go to
the second sitting, if you like.
But, they're never the same, first or second, are they?
And you're wondering what you've missed on the first.
So I'm a one for trying to take the two sessions
and join the night people, as Ken refers to them as.
Though I think this is the closest we've ever sat to each other.
Now I'm really asking you this as politicians.
Jazz has traditionally had a rather anarchistic image,
do you think it's losing that?
I don't think it is losing that.
I think the MJQ was saved by having a great vibes player.
Who even in a dinner jacket was still a great vibes player.
But it was never my favourite setting for jazz
and never my favourite group.
And I think, all the time what happened was,
that people who emerge in jazz tend to be,
not exactly alternative society, but they are rebellious.
They're distinctive, they're personal.
It is a very personal music.
And jazz is classless. Jazz isn't classed. You know classical music,
in a way, is part of our social structure of class, quite frankly.
But jazz isn't and it's because of that, people look down on it.
It doesn't get the good opportunity to have it expressed
and that's something we should do more about. Jazz is about rebellion.
We have these young, black players coming out of south London.
I still don't know whether Courtney Pine is as good as they say he is,
I've still never caught him live.
But that is coming out of a slightly alternative background.
I go in the States when I'm over there
and it hasn't become really respectable.
And Ronnie's has become a fashionable place,
but, dare I say it, John and I don't come here
because we think it's become totally respectable.
But you do think that what they're doing here still means something
to people of your age and for generations of jazz players?
Oh, yeah. I really respect what they're doing
because there's no other place like it, you know.
I mean, there's a lot of clubs that are opening now just to make money
out of what Ronnie Scott's is doing which is wrong.
'But Ronnie Scott's, they want to help jazz music, you know.'
'Current young musicians, like teenager Nigel Hitchcock,
'have come up on the crest of the 1980s jazz revival,
'the renewed interest in the music in this decade.
'It's been reflected in clubs, record stores, even advertisements for perfume.
'They brought a new audience to Ronnie Scott's,
'but young fans have also come to hear the surviving jazz giants
'of their parents' or even their grandparents' generation.'
'Of course a lot of other London jazz clubs have been run for love.
'And they've all helped to build a base for this remarkable music
'in a culture sometimes aggressively ignorant of it.
'But Ronnie Scott's enabled British fans and musicians
'to hear the creators and originators of jazz at close range.
'The place isn't always comfortable, the food wouldn't win prizes,
'the staff don't kiss your feet and the backstage ambience
'sometimes reminds you that jazz hasn't yet stopped being a man's world.
'But the club's 30 years of survival has been an achievement against all the odds.'
A place like Ronnie Scott's is the equivalent of so many
different things in classical music. It's a recital hall,
it's a concert hall, it's a place of learning
and it takes...such an important place. And you think,
"How can a club in Soho really be important to creativity
"and the serious artistic aspirations of a country?"
But I think that Ronnie Scott's is.
I think, if you agree with the subsidy of the arts,
that Ronnie Scott's should be subsidised
to the extent that wouldn't spoil it and make it feel...
as if it were on hallowed ground.
But I do feel that the future of a place like Ronnie Scott's,
and there is only one place like Ronnie Scott's,
should be assured.
You list this place in Who's Who as your club.
What is it that's special about it to you?
It's two things. I think A, it's the policy
that for 30 years the policy has been
to build outwards from the music.
And in these days of sort of designer design...
I mean God help us if one of those design consultants got in here.
to advise them on how they're packaging their product and all that, all that stuff.
It would be death. And basically I think I identify with what Ronnie...
Ronnie books the kind of music he likes to listen to
and by the same token I write the same kind of plays I would like to look at.
And that's a very basic, almost primitive, peasant-like attitude.
And that I adore. The fact that music comes first -
it's the only place you could come where the proprietor advises you not to eat the food.
I mean, I love all that stuff.
Plus I love the, the kind of ambience, cos you do come for an ambience
I mean, hence the hat.
Well, one of our kids bought me the hat saying, "You need this hat to go to Ronnie's."
And it reflects a kind of attitude from their generation to my generation
on how they think I should look to come to a place like this, if you see what I mean.
The notion of the...
baggy eyes and a world weary, gently sardonic guy
who would walk down the mean street and not be afraid
because, you know, I've heard the blues at midnight.
Which is absolute bollocks!
But it's amiable, congenial and quite, quite harmless.
I mean what I am is a little bald guy who writes plays.
But I come here and I can enter into another, slightly dream world.
'I mean the one thing that would destroy this place would be
'if you hit a hole in the wall and the sunshine got in.
'And this is not a place for sunshine.
'This is strictly under the stone territory.'
'Yeah, one says, "What's your day job?"
'What do you do during the daytime?'
Well I guess, personally...
..never foresaw it going this time at all.
-Like a prison sentence, really.
-We're just going to go on.
-30 years in a jazz club.
Yeah, when we first started we had no ambitions at all, really.
I mean it was just a place for local guys to play.
And here we are 30 years later.
It's now become of world repute...
..and I guess in a way we're very proud of it.
Still employing lots of guys.
Lots of good music coming out.
Yeah, it is amazing, really.
I mean it's much easier to name the people that haven't played,
the musicians that haven't played here, rather than the ones that have.
One we didn't get - Duke Ellington.
No, didn't get Duke, didn't get John Coltrane.
Coltrane, no we never.
-And Charlie Parker.
But there have been some marvellous nights at the place.
Some great nights.
'I must make an apology
'because the only time I sing this song is when I play England.
'It never became a hit anywhere else.
# Every time
# We say goodbye
# I cry a little
# Every time
# We say goodbye
# I wonder why a little
# Why the Gods above me
# Who may be
# In the know
# So little of me
# They allow you
# To go
# When you're near
# There's such a air
# Of Spring about it
# I can hear a lark somewhere
# Begin to sing
# About it
# There's no love song finer
# But how strange the change
# From major to minor
# Every time we say
# Good-bye. #
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Documentary celebrating the founding of Ronnie Scott's Jazz club in 1959. Scott, a rising young saxophone player, opened a club where he and his friends could play the music they liked. Over the following years, the club had its ups and downs, reflecting the changes in attitudes to jazz and the social life of surrounding Soho.
Now Ronnie Scott's is known throughout the world as the hearbeat of British jazz. In this tribute, Omnibus talks to some of Ronnie's greatest admirers including Mel Brooks, the Rt Hon Kenneth Clarke MP and writer Alan Plater, and features rare archive footage of some of the club's historic performances by Zoot Sims, Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald.