#7 – Do the Spice rack: Christmas Cabaret at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club with Spice London
Ronnie Scott’s: a London institution and a name known around the world. From humble beginnings in a Soho basement, the club has both strongly influenced the development of the jazz scene in the UK and played host to some of the world’s best known jazz musicians, as well as continuing to provide a home for new British jazz. Founded in 1959 by Ronnie Scott and Pete King, friends and fellow saxophonists, the aim was to bring to Britain the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of American jazz clubs, which Ronnie had been visiting for 12 years. Initially the club offered a place for British jazz musicians to meet and jam, but as King was able to negotiate with the Musician’s Union to allow work permits for American jazzmen in exchange for work being offered to British jazz players in the US, the club became a mecca for all things jazz. Within just six years, they had outgrown their original premises and moved to their current location in Frith Street, just around the corner.
For my London Spice event, I wanted to choose something specifically London so joining over 40 Spicers for a Christmas Cabaret at the iconic Ronnie Scott’s seemed a great way to close my year of visits to Spice events all over the country. We attended a lunchtime session with the Ronnie Scott’s All Stars playing three sets whilst we enjoyed a fantastic view of the stage and some great food and drinks.
The first set, led by Alex Garnett on the sax, featured classics such as ‘Come Fly with Me’ and ‘Putting on the Ritz’ as well as some classic improv jazz.
The band were joined by vocalist Natalie Williams for the second set, featuring Christmas classics such as Santa Baby. The final set featured some audience participation in the form of the Ronnie Scott’s kazoo championships and, my favourite part of the day, ‘Challenge the Band’. The audience were asked to call out different Christmas songs and music styles and the band then provided the mash up. Fairytale of New York tango style was interesting, Jingle Bells in a very enthusiastic (although not very tuneful) punk interpretation was frankly slightly terrifying but my personal favourite was hip hop Little Donkey, which was both brilliant and hilarious. These musicians are clearly so talented, able to turn their hand to something new instantly. I guess that’s the beauty of jazz.
It was a lovely Christmassy afternoon in the cosy atmosphere of the club, great music, great food, great service and a very special house cocktail in the form of a Portito (a mojito, made with port). Cheers!