London Diary – Day 4 | May 28, 2009
It’s an 18-year-old drummer!
It’s a Piano Player!
It’s an upright Bassist!
It’s the Branford Marsalis Quartet!
The stars coordinated my good fortune to attend this gig at the legendary Ronnie Scotts. Thanks to a certain saxophonist who once graced our sound: the good Nate Linkon who’d caught his idol with the same quartet in Frankfurt and had blocked two tickets at the legendary Ronnie Scotts in Soho, London.
One for me…
I found my way through the well-planned maze of the London Over-and-Underground to reach this beautifully envisioned idea just in time to catch the first set of the Ronnie Scott all stars, a fantastic bunch of musicians to warm the stage up for the main set. A beer and a happy reunion with Nate our ‘ol mate later found us giving up our side-row seats for the center view (standing room only) at the bar. A setting perfect for Live Jazz.
The club opened on October 30, 1959 in a basement at 39 Gerrard Street in London’s Soho district. It was managed by musicians Ronnie Scott and Pete King. In 1965 it moved to the current place at 47 Frith Street. 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 musicians.
Zoot Sims was the club’s first transatlantic visitor in 1962, and was succeeded by many others (often saxophonists whom Scott and King, tenor saxophonists themselves, admired, such as Johnny Griffin, Lee Konitz, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Stitt) in the years that followed. Many UK jazz musicians were also regularly featured, including Tubby Hayes and Dick Morrissey who would both drop in for jam sessions with the visiting stars. In the mid-sixties, Ernest Ranglin was the house guitarist. The club’s house pianist until 1967 was Stan Tracey. For nearly 30 years it was home of a Christmas residency to George Melly and John Chilton’s Feetwarmers.
Now this is the kind of heritage that London’s vibrant music culture is built on. And judging by the attendance at the gig, this culture is as strong as ever and thriving. Why is it that we have to struggle so hard against the culture vultures, the keepers of our so called moral and cultural heritage, to just go out and express ourselves the way that we, as musicians know best? As a voting citizen, why is it that my opinion as an artist doesn’t count? We need more effort, to change this mind set of the power that be. Grow up. Indian culture today is not what it was a hundred years ago. And it will be something entirely different a 100 years from now. Regardless of the people who think they have the power to control such a thing so much bigger than us all – music.
Here’s to some more Ronnie Scotts on the rocks.
Thanks to that meeting with fate, watch out for a gig alert featuring one of TAAQ’s all time greats. We have a date with Nate!
I couldn’t have written anything better about Branford and the quartet than what I read when I went online to check out my spellings. Click on the link and turn on your speakers for some the most refreshing collection of jazz I’ve heard in recent years. Anyone who gets to the end will go out and get some of this great music. Even better try to catch the man in person!