The exchange worked, and Ronnie Scott’s was a smash hit. So much so that Scott felt the need for a larger space with room to incorporate a big band of the sort he had come up playing in. The club eventually moved from Gerrard Street to a bigger location on Frith Street. It is here that Ronnie Scott’s really hit its stride in the mid-to-late 1960s.
Murray interviews several people who were there and/or knew Scott and King, providing countless fascinating recollections of the hallowed music hall. However, he elects not to do the standard “talking head” documentary style, and this structural choice makes all the difference. In a movie with this much music, footage from 1960s London, and videos of live performances from celebrated artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Roland Kirk, Sarah Vaughn, Miles Davis, and Ella Fitzgerald, the last thing the viewer wants is to be interrupted by somebody talking over it all. Ronnie’s is bursting with vivacity and energy, and to weigh it down with staid interview footage would have been a fatal error stylistically.
“…a sensational window into an era long past and the dedication of a new generation of artists keeping it alive.“
Particular high points of the film include an unexpected appearance from Mel Brooks, who clearly cherishes the role the club has played with innumerable artists and jazz fans and a recording of Jimi Hendrix jamming with Eric Burdon and War, Hendrix’s last live performance before his death later that evening.
The movie itself has an avant-garde chic to its editing. Its use of archival footage contributes to a feeling that the film might have been made in the psychedelic 1960s. Murray has done a masterful job directing the picture.
Whether or not you are a fan of jazz, you cannot deny the influence that the form has had on subsequent musical genres, not to mention artists, throughout the decades. Ronnie’s is a sensational window into an era long past and the dedication of a new generation of artists keeping it alive.
Ronnie’s screened at the 2020 DOC NYC Film Festival.
"…bursting with vivacity and energy."