The disappearance of the best gig in the country…

Ronnie Scott’s is one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world. It’s legendary. The late saxophonist who gave his name to the club was clearly a tireless campaigner for jazz music in London, and for as long as most jazzers can remember, Ronnie’s was a place to go and hang, to meet other musicians, hear some great tunes.

They’ve always done really cheap tickets for MU members, and best of all, they always booked a local band to play opposite the big names. It was pretty much the only serious venue around that booked UK jazz acts for week-long residencies. the money wasn’t great, but it was fabulous exposure, a chance to shift a load of CDs, and a great one for the CV. Without doubt, one of the best gigs that any UK jazz band could get booked for. I’ve seen some great stuff there – Ben Castle’s quartet opposite The Yellowjackets, Christine Tobin opposite Gary Husband….

well now, they’ve refurbed the building, but made a right arse of the booking policy and now have a house band. The James Pearson trio play every night, with a different guest. Yup, just like a regular restaurant gig. There are lots of these kinds of gigs around – house trio, hired in front person, plodding through the Real Book, sometimes playing lovely versions of standards, often sounding a bit bored. It makes a really nice accompaniment to dinner and is a great way to spend £4 if your local pub has put a gig on like that in the back room.

But, it’s not what I’d expect if I’d just paid £45 (£45!!!!!!!!!!) to see Chick Corea or Wynton Marsalis or whoever.

I’ve not heard James Pearson play. This isn’t about him or his trio. It’s just that the format isn’t an art gig. It’s not fair on the front person to not have their own band there – Theo isn’t going to sound anything like his records with some generic trio behind him. You can’t turn up to a blowing gig and expect them to play Schizoid Man. Ben Castle couldn’t go in with the chart for Mousecatcher General. They’ll just end up playing Satin Doll and Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, and it’ll be like any other restaurant gig in London.

So, if you feel moved by this, feel free to boycott Ronnie’s. email them and tell them why, if you like. I just think it’s sad, and will take my custom and my gig money to The Vortex, or the 606 or just about anywhere else instead.

One Reply to “The disappearance of the best gig in the country…”

  1. An unashamed plug for you, and a sincere one too Steve on my blog. I visit you great success in Edinburgh. Best. Howard.

    Well, I have to confess that despite the best efforts of friends and customers, I’m still not really into jazz. Or perhaps I am, but only certain types of jazz? Or perhaps I am, and don’t realise it’s jazz. No matter though ‘cos little by little my musical tastes in this area are expanding.

    Anyway, I’ve mentioned bass specialist Steve Lawson in a previous posting in this blog but quite possibly forgot to mention his blog. I can’t even begin to explain the magic of his performances nor can (nor wish to) I categorise his music – however glancing at his blog this morning it’s quite clear he’s into jazz and he’s articulate about his views without being “all Islington dinner party” about it.

    Suffice to say his blog is now on my must-read-every-day list and I heartily recommend that if jazz, improvised looped music and all-round musical innovation is your thing (or your merely curious), you might want to bookmark his blog too.


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