It’s a truly iconic and evocative name in the world of jazz, that conjures up images of world-famous musical names plying their trade within its rather lovely confines. We’re talking of course about Ronnie Scotts in London’s Soho, one of the most famous venues on the planet.
With this year making the club 60th anniversary of the basement club, Reel Art Press have published Ronnie Scott’s 1959–69, a book which delves into the unseen archive of photographer Freddy Warren. Representing the first time these pictures have been accessed and published.
This fantastic new book is filled with photos Warren took of every major happening at the venue for over ten years, with the focus as you’d expect on live performances from names likes Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Tony Bennet and other legends of the business.
A celebration of jazz, London, friendship and family, Ronnie Scott’s 1959–69 is both a unique photographic archive and a fascinating personal history. Freddy Warren was killed in a fire at his home in 2010. His nephew, Simon Whittle, retrieved thousands of Freddy’s photographs from the ruins, sit it stands as much a document of Whittle’s precious youth spent hanging out with his glamorous Uncle Fred and his famous friends as a revelatory archive of music history and the giants of jazz.
As a young boy Whittle was allowed to tag along in secret while Freddy photographed everyone from Thelonious Monk, Zoot Sims, Art Blakey, Stan Getz, Duke Ellington and countless others as they played onstage and off at their beloved Ronnie Scott’s.
A keen jazz drummer, Freddy would also join Ronnie Scott himself and guest musicians for an impromptu gig. One night joining audience member Dudley Moore on piano and Ronnie on saxophone when the guest artist was delayed. Warren’s appreciation and love of jazz and its characters suffused his photos, as he sought to capture,
“The atmosphere—the ‘aurora’ as I call it—the movement… the fantastic communication between the players, that makes jazz what it is.”
Ask any jazz musician in the world where they found their artistic home and, without doubt, the answer would be Birdland in New York and Ronnie Scott’s in London. Throughout the past 60 years the legendary jazz club, par excellence, has hosted all the greats from America, Europe, Africa and Latin America.
No other jazz venue in Europe has ever come close to achieving the reputation and affection shown to Ronnie Scott’s, perhaps because of the rapport between Ronnie, the musicians and the aficionados.
There’s a treasure trove of images here, all celebrating the best jazz musicians in the world, whether performing live, or relaxing in unguarded moments in a setting exclusively created for them by jazz lover Ronnie Scott and immortalised by the extraordinary Freddy Warren, an incredible talent who lived to celebrate music. This is their history and their story.
Ronnie Scott’s 1959–69 will coincide with a new exhibition of Freddy Warren’s photographs at the Barbican to mark six decades since the construction of Ronnie Scott’s.
Ronnie Scott’s 1959 – 69: Photographs by Freddy Warren is published by Reel Art Press RRP £29.95. For further information and full list of stockists visit: www.reelartpress.com
The exhibition at the Barbican Library runs until 4 Jan 2020
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