Come blow your horn: the glory days of Ronnie Scott’s jazz club – in pictures

Since opening in 1959 in the depths of Soho, Ronnie Scott’s has been a haven for jazz lovers. Freddy Warren photographed the musical legends, from Count Basie to Sonny Rollins, who passed through during its smoke-filled first decade.

Ronnie Stevenson, Rick Laird, Stan Tracey and Sonny Rollins
Freddy Warren photographed every major happening at the club for more than 10 years. His vast archive of jazz photos will be published in his book Ronnie Scott’s: 1959-69 in November. All photographs: Freddy Warren/Reel Art Press
Jimmy Smith practices
Warren was killed in a fire at his home in 2010. His nephew, Simon Whittle, retrieved thousands of Freddy’s photographs from the ruins, as much a document of Whittle’s 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.
Trummy Young
A keen jazz drummer, Warren would also join Ronnie Scott and guest musicians for an impromptu gig, one night joining audience member Dudley Moore on piano and Scott on saxophone when the guest artist was delayed.
Ella Fitzgerald and the audience at Ronnie Scott’s Frith StreetAs a young boy Whittle was allowed to tag along in secret while Warren photographed everyone from Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Ella Fitzgerald, Zoot Sims, Art Blakey, Stan Getz, Duke Ellington and countless others as they played onstage and off at their beloved Ronnie Scott’s.
Tubby Hayes
Hayes co-led quintet the Jazz Couriers with Ronnie Scott. He played the tenor sax.
Tony Bennett and Eddie Lockjaw Davis
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.”
Count Basie
The appearance of American jazz giants put Ronnie Scotts on the international map, but the club operated at a loss until its lease ran out.
Stan Getz plays at Ronnie Scott’s
Getz, the American jazz saxophonist, was a central figure in introducing bossa nova to American audiences – and, here, to the London one too.
Ronnie Scott and Sonny Rollins
Rollins, one of the most prolific and influential jazz tenor saxophonists of all time, gave the world the ‘strolling’ jazz sound – bass and drums, but no piano.
Stan Tracey, Yusef Lateef and Rick Laird composing
Lateef was a multi-instrumentalist whose mixture of jazz and eastern music inspired the likes of John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. Here, he’s preparing a set with two mainstays of Ronnie Scott’s house band.
Bill Evans at Freddy Warren’s studio before a performance at Ronnie Scott’s
Evans was a jazz pianist who joined Miles Davis’s band and played on his classic album Kind of Blue – though he usually played in trios.
Ronnie Scott with his saxophone
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.
Ronnie’s interior
Throughout the past 60 years the legendary jazz club, par excellence, has hosted all the greats from the United States, Europe, Africa and Latin America, famous for its rapport between Scott, the musicians and the aficionados.

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