Having opened back in 1959, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho is a nailed-on London institution – and we are ashamed to say that we had never been up until a few weeks ago. Emerging from months of lockdown, we decided that a Saturday night trip to the world famous venue would be just the ticket, and booked the early show for one of the house bands – The Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra.
Over the decades, Ronnie Scott’s has hosted some of the biggest names in jazz from all over the world including the likes of Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins and Ella Fitzgerald. Other famous names to have played here include Van Morisson, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, who played his last ever show here before he passed away. It’s definitely one of those places where you can feel the history of it as soon as you walk into the dimly lit corridor and into the main room, covered with photos of past performers bathed in the warm glow of the orange table lights.
You can choose from an early or late show for most performances – and our early show was absolutely packed. Ronnie Scott’s has lost none of its popularity over the years though it’s hard not to suspect that the clientele has changed a bit from hardcore jazz fans to curious tourists. Still, they know how to put on a show, and if it’s your first time, then the in-house Jazz Orchestra is a great place to start.
Featuring some incredible musicians, the band make one powerful noise in the small club as they roll though jazz classics by Herby Hancock, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington, as well as some original compositions. There are some cheesier ‘jazz hands’ moments too however, especially during The Rat Pack section of the set, where a guest vocalist does their best Sinatra impression, veering the show into cruise ship territory briefly. All in all though, it’s great fun, and watching such skilled musicians up close is a real treat.
Ronnie Scott’s does offer a dinner menu too, though we’d probably recommend eating before or after in Soho. As you might expect, food is not exactly the focus of Ronnie Scott’s, and while it wasn’t bad, when you’ve got the likes of Hoppers and Koya on the same street, let alone everything else in Soho, you’re best off taking your pick of the what the neighbourhood has to offer.
Given the change that has swept through Soho over the years, it’s amazing to have places like Ronnie Scott’s still going strong and remaining largely unchanged. It may attract a bit of a different, more touristy crowd these days, but it still has all the charm you’d expect from a place like this – and it makes for a hugely fun, and refreshingly different night out.
47 Frith St, London W1D 4HT
Photo credit: Ronnie Scott’s Facebook