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Ronnie Scott: Birth Of A Legend

Nic Jones By

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Ronnie Scott's role as the owner of Britain's longest surviving jazz club has perhaps distracted attention from his work as a musician, and this situation was hardly helped by the fact that he wasn't recorded that often in his lifetime. This set goes some way towards rectifying the first situation, but at the same time it serves also as a primer for the way in which bebop was disseminated in the later 1940s and 1950s.

In a sense there is only patchy evidence here of the musical personality that Scott was to become on the tenor sax. And it could be argued that on "Scrubber Time, which finds Scott a member of a quartet under the leadership of Jack Parnell, his position in the swing-through-bop pantheon is roughly analogous to that of Flip Phillips. Certainly his phrasing veers more towards bop than swing, and at the same time the distinctiveness of his instrumental voice echoes some of Lucky Thompson's individuality.

In his role as a member of the Esquire Five a little over a year later in January of 1948, it's already apparent that jazz in the modern sense of the day has already started to exert a strong influence on Scott's work. This is perhaps unsurprisingly most evident on "Boppin' At Esquire, where he sounds for all the world like a more economical Dexter Gordon.

When Scott teamed up in 1951 with Spike Robinson, then very much a modernist on alto sax, it must have been clear that a player of distinction and verve was in the making. His work on "Little Willie Leaps is very much his own, the sound of a musician who had assimilated the bop idiom to the degree that he'd found his own voice within it.

Given the fact that this double-disc set is a compilation, it's perhaps inevitable that the octet and nonet that Scott led in the 1950s get only limited coverage. This doesn't alter the fact that Scott hit some kind of stride with those groups, and the same is true of his work on a Parnell orchestra's reading of Dizzy Gillespie's "The Champ, cut at more or less the same time. These groups, however, amounted to a whole lot more than the arrival of an individual player. They were instead nothing less than representative of how the new music was disseminated and assimilated by musicians geographically far removed from its source.

Track Listing: CD1: Them That Has, Gets; Ad Lib Frolic; Scrubber Time; Sunny Side Of The Street; Lady Be Good; Boppin

Personnel: CD1: Ted Heath & His Music (1,2); Jack Parnell & His Quartet (3,4); The Esquire Five (5,6); Jazz At The Town Hall Ensemble (7,8); The Ronnie Scott Club XI Boptet (9-13); Alan Dean

Title: Birth Of A Legend | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Giant Steps

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