Sunday, September 11, 2005


There has been much speculation recently as to the future of Ronnie Scott’s jazz club since the ‘official’ takeover by Sally Greene on 29th June this year . Owner/manager/co-founder for the past 46 years, Pete King, will be phasing himself out from now on (one man a jazz club cannot book for ever and a day – it’s stressful – just believe me on this one). So rumours are afoot as to who might take over the programming. My money’s on the discriminating Peter Wallis, ex-manager of Dean Street’s Pizza Express Jazz Club and I hope I’m right. He turned Pizza Express around and about, he knows his stuff and he’s that rare combination of businessman and true music-lover. Plus let’s face it, he needs to be somewhere where he can still start the evening with ‘here in the heart of Soho….’
All things considered this takeover is probably a good thing. The big fear was that the club might have been bought out by a large pub or club chain and at least Sally Greene appears determined to honour the club’s history and culture. The club is also definitely in need of a revamp (have you SEEN those carpets in the daylight?)? But I sincerely hope that, whatever happens, it still manages to provide week-long residencies for British bands alongside big International names. This must be pretty much the only club in the UK where it’s possible to do a 6-night residency as a jazz band and it’s invaluable, not just in terms of good exposure for British jazz but also just simply as ‘work’ for British jazz musicians.

I’ve been very negligent in getting down to Ronnie’s lately (what with getting married, moving out of my office, moving out of my home and country and all), so I simply had to visit during my last week in London. Headed down there last Thursday to check out the wonderful Netoband and meet up with the lovely Steve, Jools and Mark for yet more goodbyes.

How suave and sardonic is doorman Moses. Good to see him again.
‘So what’s new then since takeover?’
Moses ‘we have new plates’.
Nothing to worry about there then.

Good to hear Trudy Kerr again, especially in such charming and relaxed form and performing really enjoyable repertoire. Then Jose Neto’s band in a set of life-affirming Brazilian loveliness and some mind-blowing Latin rhythms. (His latest CD ‘Lua’s Dance’ is well worth hearing, and the title track a heartwarming, heart wrenching gem - a tribute to his only daughter who was tragically killed in an automobile accident last year.)

In the break I go downstairs to the loo. Inside a woman greets me with a ‘hello, how are you today?’
I look around to see if someone else has come in too. No, she is talking to me.
Well, I’m completely stressed out actually – I’m moving abroad at the weekend, I’ve still got 2 tenants to find, I don’t have a job lined up, I’m leaving all my friends – 3 of them right now upstairs as it happens, a couple of my friends are from New Orleans and homeless, I think I might have an alcohol problem, I’m still not 100 percent sure I’ve forgiven my mother……….
‘I’m fine thanks’ I reply. This was obviously the answer she was expecting. I lock myself in a cubicle.
Ok, so Ronnies now has lavatory attendants. Great. Something it really needs – not a new carpet or even a CHEF for god’s sake. Lavatory attendants. In the sort of lavatories where frankly they should be paying YOU for having to pee there. If there’s one thing  I don’t need help with , (and hope I don’t until the day comes when all  I’m capable of is sitting around reading the complete works of Georges Simenon in a nursing home,) it’s going to the loo. I mean what’s so difficult about turning on a tap, flushing a lavatory and helping oneself to a paper towel? Who is it out there that finds these things too complicated to do for themselves? It’s the principle of the thing.

She stands by the sink with a paper towel when I come out of the cubicle.  A pound coin sits in a saucer next to the sink.
She turns on the hot tap. This is the final straw. Anyone who has been frequenting Ronnie’s for years knows damn well that the hot taps are TOO HOT.  There is a very delicate balance of cold and hot water required in order to wash ones hands.

The paper towel is not big or absorbent enough, but really that’s the least of my problems, because now attendant says ‘Nice music isn’t it? Nice music for nice people like you’.
There are several things wrong with this statement as I see it.
A/ how on earth does she know whether or not the music’s nice? Clearly she doesn’t because she’s been stuck in the toilet all night and hasn’t heard a note.
B/ how does she know I’m nice? Clearly she doesn’t because she’s never met me before and knows absolutely nothing about me.
C/ I don’t want to give her a pound. Because the other thing I don’t like in addition to paying to go to the lavatory when I’ve just paid 20 pounds to get in to the club in the first place,  is handling money when I’ve just washed my hands. Thereby proving I am right about at least point B. I am clearly not nice after all.

Later Jools also doesn’t leave any money either.
‘You’re not going to leave any money are you?’ attendant asks.
‘No I’m not’ Jools replies.
’You’re not coming back then are you?’

This seems a little on the threatening side of polite. We possibly would have stayed for the second set but were forced to leave in order to go for a pee in the safety of our own homes.

Please, new Ronnie’s bosses – maybe you did need new plates, but you sure as hell don’t need lavatory attendants, at least not until you get new lavatories. You do need new carpets and you need to stop charging approximately 27p per chip. But most importantly, you need to carry on being one of the best jazz clubs in the country and programming lots of good music… Don’t go changing.

Executive summary: Ronnie Scotts under new management.



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