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Meet Scottish Bassist Ronnie Rae

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It doesn't mean a thing if it doesn't swing - if it doesn't swing its not jazz'

Without a doubt, Ronnie Rae is one of the great players on the Scottish scene. His love and understanding of bass lines shows everytime he picks up his double bass, but it was the Tuba that he started out on...

'...I started off at 11yrs old in my school's 25 piece brass band where I ended up on Tuba. Although it didn't have the flamboyance of a solo cornet, I fell in love with the bass lines and the importance of the bass knocked me out! The time was Miles Davis and all the old guys were still there like Ben Webster and I loved the whole lot. I had the brass band, then caught onto Be Bop. The reason I got into jazz was through Ted Heath. Ted had a wonderfull brass section in his setup that I could relate to coming from a brass band - it was quite a modern band in its day. Then I got invited to play in the Alex Welsh dixieland band.

When I was 19, I got tuberculosis and couldn't blow anymore - thats the way it was at the time and so I took up guitar learning simple chords. I left that band and joined a new local music club. The club had a bass but no bassist so I went in on bass. For lessons I went to a guy called Jimmy Luke who was a wonderfull character and bassist. My previous tutor had been a semandle tutor which is like a bible for the bass and Jimmy used to change all the fingering. What I got from Jimmy wasn't so much the fingering as the attitude - his attitude was exactly like that of Duke Ellington - it doesn't mean a thing if it doesn't swing - If it doesn't swing its not jazz! After that I went on to a classical teacher and learned how to do it properly. Both these guys were enthusiastic about what they were doing - they weren't in it for the money - they encouraged my enthusiasm and thats whats important.

With Alex Welsh, I had worked with people like Ben Webster, John Davis and Ruby Braff. When I came back to Edinburgh, I was about 28 and I'm telling people what I've been doing and they all think I'm crazy, bullshitting them! Soon after, Ian Cole started Platform Jazz in Scotland with venues set up all over and funded by the Arts Council Organisation. They sarted getting some great guys over from the states and I was getting the gig.

Although there are numerous venues in Glasgow now, there are not enough. Jazz is nothing to do with where you are but there does have to be an encourageing scene for people to get a chance to work and extend their talent. Glasgow has plenty of venues, but the limited encouragement will never produce the likes of an Oscar Pettersford Jnr, who, as soon as his talent was recognised, was funded by the Norwegian government and grew to become a world class performer. One reason why musicians in Scotland don't receive enough funding is that within the funding parties there are no musicians or people capable of recognising the talent!

I'm currently producing my own music and have written 10 tunes which I'm taking on the road. I've had several gigs already, performing songs at Henry's with Colin Steele, Phil Bancroft, Chick Lyall (piano) and my son John Rae on Drums. The tunes are easy to pick up and are played with trumpet tenor in a sort of Be Bop style. Along with my main residency in Glasgow (the Drum&Monkey), I do session work both at home and abroad and hook up regularly with Carol Kidd.'

For more interviews with Scotland’s top jazz musicians, please visit www.glasjazz.co.uk .


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