Ronnie Scott, OBE, born on January 28, 1927, in Aldgate, England, was a renowned British jazz tenor saxophonist and jazz club owner. His contributions to the jazz scene in England and the world at large have left an indelible mark on the genre.
Scott’s early career saw him performing with notable musicians such as Johnny Claes, Ted Heath, and Cab Kaye. He was part of a group of British musicians who regularly played on the trans-Atlantic Queen Mary ocean liner from 1946 to 1950. During these trips he was introduced to bebop in New York City and was heavily influenced by Charlie Parker.
In 1952, he formed his own band, the Ronnie Scott Orchestra, which played at popular venues and jazz festivals around the country. The group also had a successful tour in the United States, making Scott one of the first British jazz musicians to gain recognition in the American jazz scene. He continued to perform and tour throughout the 1950s and 160s with a variety of bands and musicians.
Scott was also an occasional session musician, recording the sax solo on the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” and the sax solo in Phil Collins’ “I Missed Again.” In 1981 New Years Honours, Scott was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to jazz music.
However, Ronnie Scott is perhaps best known for co-founding the iconic Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London in 1959, alongside fellow musician Pete King. The club began its journey in a basement at 39 Gerrard Street in London’s Soho district. Known for its intimate setting and top-tier performances, it quickly became a hub for jazz lovers and musicians alike. The club was a place where American jazz musicians, who were often restricted from performing in the US due to racial segregation laws, found a welcoming stage. It also became the go-to spot for late-night jam sessions for visiting American musicians, adding to its prestige and popularity.
In 1965, the club moved to a larger venue at 47 Frith Street, where it remains to this day. Over the years, the club has hosted performances by some of the most significant figures in jazz, including Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Stan Getz, Count Basie, Sonny Rollins, Bill Evans, Tubby Hayes and Nina Simone, to name a few. In addition to being a performance space, the club also served as a recording venue for numerous live albums, further cementing its place in jazz history.
Scott continued to be a vital part of the club, often performing there himself, until his death on December 23, 1996. His legacy lives on, not only through his music but also through Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, which continues to be a beacon for jazz music in the heart of London.
Page last updated 6/21/2023.