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Culture Clubs: Part IV: When Jazz Met Europe

Karl Ackermann By

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In 1959, Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club opened on London's Gerrard Street before moving to Frith Street in 1967. It has long been one of the most famous and successful jazz clubs in the world. The Ministry of Labour's 1956 lifting of the ban on American musicians performing in the UK was key to Ronnie Scott's success and Stan Kenton's orchestra opened at the club that year, with much fanfare. Zoot Sims was an early U.S. visitor, performing in 1962, and was the first of many American saxophonists to play Scott's. Lee Konitz, Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt were among those who shared the venue with their English counterparts Tubby Hayes and Dick Morrissey. Scott, himself, was a highly accomplished tenor saxophonist with dozens of recordings including a notable non-jazz appearance with The Beatles on "Lady Madonna" (1968). Among the scores of American performers at Ronnie Scott's were Earl "Fatha" Hines, Chet Baker, Anita O'Day, Ellington and Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield, Jimi Hendrix, Dianne Reeves, Wynton Marsalis, Madeleine Peyroux, Prince, Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, George Benson and Cassandra Wilson. At least fifty live albums have been recorded at the club, to date.

The Vortex at 11 Gillett Square in London opened in 1984 as an art gallery on Church Street. Shortly afterward the venue added jazz and by 1987, patron interest in music edged out visual art resulting in a conversion to an all-music format with a neighborhood atmosphere. In the 1990s, The Vortex added specialized nights to their calendar; saxophonist Elton Dean hosted a weekly avant-garde night while a different night featured new local talent. The Vortex later began recording performances for broadcasts on the BBC. The club's early 2018 calendar includes Tim Berne's Big Satan trio with Marc Ducret and Tom Rainey, saxophonist Paul Dunmall, Dave Holland, Evan Parker, Trio Elf, Kit Downes, Howard Riley and Barry Guy.

Germany

The African-American a cappella group, Fisk Jubilee Singers, began performing with an 1871 tour of locations along what had been the Underground Railroad. The following year they performed at the White House for President Ulysses S. Grant. It was this evolving group of performers who took spirituals to the British in 1903 and their European tour later introduced this music to Germany. Within a year of the cakewalk and ragtime reaching France and Britain, American influence reached the outer borders of Western Europe.

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