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Ronnie Scott OBE (born Ronald Schatt, 28 January 1927 – 23 December 1996) was a British jazz tenor saxophonist and jazz club owner. He co-founded Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London’s Soho district, one of the world’s most popular jazz clubs, in 1959.
Life and career
Ronnie Scott was born in Aldgate, East London, into a Jewish family. His father, Joseph Schatt, was of Russian ancestry, and his mother Sylvia’s family attended the Portuguese synagogue in Alie Street. Scott attended the Central Foundation Boys’ School.
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. That same year, he appeared as one of the band members in George in Civvy Street. 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.
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. 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).
From 1967 to 1969, Scott was a member of the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band, 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.” 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. […]
Laurie Gold, a session ‘fixer’ for EMI, often used by George Martin and The Beatles, was called into swift action. Harry Klein, a baritone sax player, has a vivid recollection of events. “They were in a real flap to find four musicians and called on Laurie to conjure some up for them. I was in the bath at about 6:30 in the evening when Laurie called and said, ‘Are you working tonight?’ ‘No, I’m in the bath!’ ‘Well get over to EMI as quick as you can, and how can I find a tenor player?’ I suggested he call Ronnie Scott, the chap who runs the London jazz club, and sure enough, when I got to Abbey Road, Ronnie was there, along with Bill Jackman and Bill Povey. Paul didn’t recognize Ronnie Scott until we told him who he was.“From “The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions” by Mark Lewisohn
Paul McCartney remembers differently:
I used to know Ronnie and I’d meet him in Soho and go to his jazz club quite a lot. I said, ‘We need a nice wild sax solo.’ He came along to the session, played it great but, of course, in the mix we buried it. After he heard it on the radio, he said, “What did you do to my solo?”Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles” Super Deluxe edition book (2018)
Last updated on September 14, 2021
Feb 06, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Lady Madonna / The Inner Light
Jul 11, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on The Beatles (Mono)