Ronnie Scott (28 January 1927 – 23 December 1996) was an English jazz tenor saxophonist and co-founder of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London’s Soho.
Ronnie Scott was born Ronald Schatt in East London. After first buying a cornet from a local junk shop as a child, he then moved to the soprano saxophone, before finally settling on the tenor sax in his teens.
Scott began playing in small jazz clubs when he was 16. He toured with trumpeter Johnny Claes in 1945 and joined the Ted Heath Big Band the following year.
In late 1948, he co-founded Club Eleven in London, the first UK club devoted to modern jazz, with Johnny Dankworth and others. He was one of the British musicians to work on the Cunard liner Queen Mary, intermittently from 1946 to around 1950, in order to visit New York and hear the new bebop style of jazz in person.
In 1952, Scott joined Jack Parnell’s orchestra. He then led his own nine-piece group and quintet, which featured among others, tenor sax player Pete King, who was to become his jazz club partner. From 1957 to 1959, Scott co-led The Jazz Couriers with Tubby Hayes, and was leader of a quartet including pianist Stan Tracey from 1960 to 1967.
On 30 October 1959, Scott and King opened Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in a basement at 39 Gerrard Street in London’s Soho district. The club welcomed a host of American tenor icons including Dexter Gordon, Roland Kirk, Stan Getz, Sonny Stitt, Ben Webster and Sonny Rollins, with Scott regularly acting as the genial master of ceremonies. In 1965, the club moved to a larger venue and its current home at nearby 47 Frith Street.
From 1967 to 1969, Scott was a member of The Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band, which toured Europe extensively and also featured fellow tenor players Johnny Griffin and Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis. At the same time, Scott ran his own octet including saxophonist John Surman and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler. In 1971–1975, he led a trio with Mike Carr on keyboards and Bobby Gien on drums. After this, he went on to lead various groups, most of which included John Critchinson on keyboards and Martin Drew on drums.
Scott also did occasional session work outside of jazz. His best-known work here is the solo on The Beatles’ ‘Lady Madonna’. He continued to be in demand for guest appearances in his later years, such as providing the tenor sax solo on Phil Collins’s 1981 hit single ‘I Missed Again’. Today, Ronnie Scott’s continues to be one of the world’s most famous jazz clubs.
In this footage from 1965, Scott plays ‘A Night in Tunisia’ with fellow tenor player Ben Webster.