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Jazz at Ronnie Scotts

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published January 23rd 2011
Ronnie Scott's is a Soho institution, and an institution in jazz. Founded by jazz musicians Ronnie Scott and Pete King in 1959, it's a jazz club for jazz musicians: intimate (read close), personal (read small with perfect acoustics) and slightly smoky, despite the smoking ban (which is possibly to do with the low, red lamps.).

Scott's has hosted big names and small names, and smaller names that went on to become big names. Their house band alone has featured some of Britain's jazz greats. But it goes a bit beyond that at Scott's: this is also where Hendrix gave his last performance, and there are famous live albums of Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone that were recorded here. If you want a run down of past performers check out the jazz section of any good record store, or check out the photos crammed onto the walls of Ronnie Scott's. You'll see Roy, Curtis, Miles, Cleo and more. And if the walls could talk you'd hear the biggest, baddest jam session around. Ever.

Jools Holland @ Ronnie Scotts
Jools Holland @ Ronnie Scotts


As you might have guessed from the inclusion of Hendrix, Ronnie's doesn't just feature classic jazz, but also hybrids of funk, soul, latin and world music. And hybrids of the hybrids. If you become a frequent frequenter you'll hear jazz standards sometimes and sometimes you won't hear anything like anything you've heard before (or will hear again if it's a less formal jamming session.).

If you're eating, and a lot of people eat, even during the show, then expect posh pub nosh, sausages and mash, fish pie, burgers, steaks etc., at slightly above posh pub prices. There's table service in front of the stage which can be a bit noisy depending on the show and along the sides which are busier, or you can perch at the bar at the back. Which has a drinks list that's a credit to the place and includes a cocktail called the 'Ellington', which was apparently Duke's favourite, and is a perfect match to the setting: it'll dance over you leaving you feeling warmer, and slightly smokier than before you imbibed.

The upstairs bar, also known as 'Ronnie's Bar; is more popular with the kids possibly because the door charge is lower and it's also where a lot of the younger/ newer acts cut their teeth.

The calibre of the bookings got a bit poppy and mainstream for a while after the refurbishment in 2006 which is also when the food got better and they expanded the restaurant section but they seems to be back to the pure stuff now.
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Why? Jazz. Pure and simple.
Where: 47 Frith St Westminster, London W1D 4HT, nearest station Tottenham Court Road
Cost: Standard door charge 27.50
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