Opening Friday 23rd October at Everyman cinemas for a very limited period only this is an opportunity to see this feature length documentary about the famous London Jazz Club and the man behind it with rare performances and unseen footage. Book tickets at one of the exclusive Everyman cinemas who are redefining the cinema experience.
Ronnie’s is a nostalgic retrospective that brings us right up to the current day, put together with loving care by writer and director Oliver Murray. The number of stellar artists we see performing and sharing their memories shows just how much people love and revere this place. It is a great piece of UK history to learn about the man behind one of London’s most famous establishments who brought the best jazz artists to the UK.
Situated in the heart of the West End Ronnie Scott’s seems to have been there for ever and a day (over 60 years now having opened in 1959) but the man himself is somewhat of an unknown mystery along with the story of how his magical music venue came to be.
The film traces Ronnie’s life from his early childhood as a working-class Jewish boy growing up in the East End of London during World War 2, who had a passion for music handed down from his saxophone playing estranged father. He would become an accomplished sax player himself joining different bands and formed his own dance band. He started performing on cruise ships so he could travel to America to experience the thriving New York jazz scene first hand. But it was difficult finding work and venues to play at in the UK, because of jazz’s questionable popularity and despite this being a very good reason not to start a jazz club, he decided he had to start his own scene.
The film shows some amazing rare clips from some of the best jazz musicians there have ever been including Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. The list goes on and on and the magic from such performances still jumps off the screen and makes you wish you had been there.
We should be grateful that such rare footage has survived including interviews with Ronnie himself, which are used perfectly to help narrate the documentary even though he passed-away sometime ago. These included TV and radio interviews on chat shows such as Parkinson’s and also fabulous old celluloid of Ronnie and his friends hanging out on the streets of Soho.
Ronnie had created the jazz club he always wished for along with his business partner Pete King, who Ronnie befriended in his early band days. Pete has to take a lot credit for running the club but it was Ronnie who was the headline act. His comedic comparing before the shows were a huge part of the charm and allure of the club and listening to this cockney raconteur you can easily see why, a real character from a bygone era with a love of women, cars and gambling but above all a love for playing music.
Ronnie and Pete had to deal with constant financial difficulties and never seemed out of debt. The venue was even threatened with imminent closure but it was the love and support of the music community that would stop this legendary jazz club from disappearing. Someone once commented to Pete, “If you’d been better businessmen this wouldn’t have happened to you.” and Pete said, “If we’d been better businessmen, we wouldn’t have started a jazz club in the first place.” For a business to be running 60 years is quite an achievement let alone a jazz club.
The club continued to draw and book the top acts around but with Ronnie’s passing, it was down to Pete to secure the future of the venue and with himself advancing in years (after all the venue was 60 years old) big decisions were needed regarding its ownership and to bring the venue up to date.
Sit back and be inspired by seeing some of the greats performing in their venue of choice, a venue so intimate one person said they watched the sweat of the artist bouncing off his shoes. Whether you like jazz or not you should feel very proud that Ronnie’s is still open for business, a place where magic is often on the bill.
Run time: 1hr 42min
Director: Oliver Murray