Friday, 27 May 2016

Jazzman's Jolly

It's been years since I was in Ronnie Scott's, in fact the club hadn't yet moved from its old quarters to the present rather posh venue in Frith Street, Soho, when I last visited. Roland Kirk and Sonny Rollins were playing and it was fantastic.

This time it was Monty Alexander, the Jamaican pianist born in '44, who played music with reference to his Kingstown Jamaica birthplace, chucking in Marley, Calypso, Reggae and his old favourite, Nat King Cole for a superb evening of jazz.

Monty was warm, witty and energetic and his music inventive, playful and masterfully delivered. His interaction with his musicians and audience left me with a warm glow.

Not all jazz musicians are so laid back: the joke about the night's star turn being taken suddenly ill with an attack of the drunks, and "I've had a request, but I'm going to play it anyway" are standard, and Ronnie Scott certainly had a joke or two up his sleeve, but in the main jazz musicians are not a friendly approachable bunch, especially if they have fallen foul of drink or drugs. Monty was just relaxed and enjoying himself, ably assisted by his musicians.

Scott's is bit posher than it was. We compared it to the Village Vanguard in New York, which is still a dive, scruffy round the edges, and thought on the whole we preferred the informality of the Vanguard to the slick, cramped seating on tiered benches in Scott's which reminded me of a magistrate's court.

Times move on and things change. Thankfully the music still endures.