Jazz (21 Artists) – 22 of 23 Genres

Photo credit: dreamstime.com

Jazz music originated in the late-19th to early-20th century as interpretations of American and European classical music entwined with African and slave folk songs and the influences of West African culture. In doing research to identify great jazz musicians, I stumbled across Paul Thomson’s blog called oldtimemusic.com. He started this work in 1998. He along with eight other music experts (Art, No last name, Steve Marriott, John Melcher, Niall Flynn, Corey Hoffman, Jennifer Bell and Warren Barrett) support the blog including identifying 19 of the top all-time jazz music artists. They are summarized here in an unranked format:

Louis Armstrong 1901-1971 Photo credit: IMDb

Armstrong’s career spanned five decades and several eras of jazz. He was best known as a master jazz trumpeter along with his distinctive gravelly voice. Four of his many songs make him particularly memorable: “What a Wonderful World, (https://youtu.be/e1FN047_LT0)” “Hello, Dolly, (https://youtu.be/YCM0APgpdZc)” ”Star Dust” and “La Vie En Rose.”

Ray Brown 1926-2002 Photo credit: South Carolina Public Radio

Ray was a jazz double bassist. He worked extensively with both Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. At twenty years old he bought a one way ticket from Pittsburgh to NYC. There, he was introduced to Dizzy Gillespie who was looking for a bass player. He worked for Gillespie’s band from 1946-1951. During this period Ella Fitzgerald joined the band and she married Ray. Tho divorced in 1953, they continued to perform together. Then, from 1951-1965 he was a member of the Oscar Peterson Trio. In 1965 they performed in Montreal (https://youtu.be/UXJsPWLmOUQ). Later on, based out of LA, he concentrated on studio work.

John Coltrane. 1926-1967. Photo credit: artspur

John began as a professional saxophone player in 1945. His reputation was built around relentless practicing and experimenting with new ideas. His 1960’s band was thought to be one of the all time best jazz bands. He worked in the bebop and hard bopidioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes and was one of the players at the forefront of free jazz. In 1972, A Love Supreme (https://youtu.be/ll3CMgiUPuU) was certified gold by the RIAA for selling over half a million copies in Japan. This album was certified gold in the United States in 2001. Overall between 1957-1967, Coltrane produced twenty-five albums through four recording companies (Prestige, Blue Note, Atlantic and Impulse Record companies).

John Dankworth. 1927-2010. Photo credit: second hand songs

Early on John teamed up with Cleo Laine to created jazz music. Dankworth was their English jazz composer, saxophonist, clarinettist and writer of film scores. Cleo was his wife (married in 1957) and their jazz singer. In 1950 he formed an eight member group. Then in 1953 he formed a larger band or orchestra. This English group had a flowing, unforced, rhythmic drive that had virtually disappeared from American bands. Their recording of “African Waltz” (https://youtu.be/oGvgHEXg1Gw) in 1961 managed to chart No9 for 21 weeks. In the mid-sixties John branched out into doing themes for British TV including The Avengers and five others. Later on in his career he collaborated with Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman and many others.

Miles Davis 1926-1991. Photo credit: NPR

Miles Davis was arguably the most influential jazz musician in the post-World War II period, being at the forefront of changes in the genre for more than 40 years. Born into a middle-class family, Davis started on the trumpet at age 13. His first professional music job came when he joined the Eddie Randall band in St. Louis in 1941. In the fall of 1944 Davis took a scholarship to attend the Juilliard School. In 1955, Davis assembled his first important band with John Coltrane, Red Garland, Paul Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones, adding Cannonball Adderley in 1958. In 1964, Davis assembled a new band of younger musicians, which became known as his second great quintet. This included Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, and Wayne Shorter. By this time, the Miles Davis Quintet was recording mostly originals, with all the band members contributing memorable tunes. Davis’ horn playing also changed, increasing the spacing of notes to create more suspense in the music. In 1959, they produced “Kind of Blue” (https://youtube.com/playlist?list=RDvDqULFUg6CY&playnext=1). This album is considered to be one of the best jazz albums ever.

Candy Dulfer 1969- Photo credit: SeatGeek

Dulfer is a Dutch jazz and pop saxophonist. She is the daughter of jazz saxophonist Hans Dulfer. She began playing at age six and founded her band Funky Stuff when she was fourteen. Her debut album “Saxuality” (https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_ndorw5cVusXHPXFxrOeSDcznePvF-Wa08) received a Grammy nomination. She has performed and recorded with Hans Dulfer, Prince, Dave Stewart, Van Morrison, Angie Stone, Maceo Parker and Rick Braun and has performed live with Alan Parsons (1995), Pink Floyd (1990), and Tower of Power (2014).

Duke Ellington – 1899-1974 Photo credit: All About Jazz

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was an American jazz pianist, composer, and leader of his eponymous jazz orchestra from 1923 through the rest of his life. He created one of the most distinctive ensemble sounds in Western music and continued to play what he called “American Music.” Ellington’s fame rose to the rafters in the 1940s when he composed several masterworks, including “Concerto for Cootie,” “Cotton Tail” and “Ko-Ko.” Some of his most popular songs included “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Solitude” and “Satin Doll.” Perhaps Ellington’s most famous jazz tune was “Take the A Train,” (https://youtu.be/MQ_vOm-mAys) which was composed by Billy Strayhorn. It was Ellington’s sense of musical drama that made him stand out. His blend of melodies, rhythms and subtle sonic movements gave audiences a new experience—complex yet accessible jazz that made the heart swing.

Ella Fitzgerald – 1917-1996. Photo credit: She Made History

Ella Jane Fitzgerald was an American jazz singer, sometimes referred to as the “First Lady of Song”, “Queen of Jazz”, and “Lady Ella”. She was noted for her purity of tone, impeccable diction, phrasing, timing, intonation, and a “horn-like” improvisational ability, particularly in her scat singing. Her musical collaborations with Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and The Ink Spotswere some of her most notable acts outside of her solo career. These partnerships produced some of her best-known songs such as:

“Dream a Little Dream of Me”, with Louis Armstrong (https://youtu.be/OAVZuSoP8dk).

“Cheek to Cheek”, with Louis Armstrong (https://youtu.be/20iOlPwz0J0)

“Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall”, with the Ink Spots (https://youtube.com/playlist?list=RDPJ9IaplRrm4&playnext=1).

“It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”. with Duke Ellington (https://youtu.be/0ScOUncmWOE).

Herbie Hancock – 1940- Photo credit: Alamny

Herbie Hancock will always be one of the most revered and controversial figures in jazz — just as his employer/mentor Miles Davis was when he was alive. Unlike Miles, who pressed ahead relentlessly and never looked back until near the very end, Hancock has cut a zigzagging forward path, shuttling between almost every development in electronic and acoustic jazz and R&B over the last third of the 20th century and into the 21st. Though grounded in Bill Evans and able to absorb blues, funk, gospel, and even modern classical influences, Hancock’s piano and keyboard voices are entirely his own, with their own urbane harmonic and complex, earthy rhythmic signatures — and young pianists cop his licks constantly. Having studied engineering and professing to love gadgets and buttons, Hancock was perfectly suited for the electronic age; he was one of the earliest champions of the Rhodes electric piano and Hohner clavinet, and would field an ever-growing collection of synthesizers and computers on his electric dates. Yet his love for the grand piano never waned, and despite his peripatetic activities all around the musical map, his piano style continued to evolve into tougher, ever more complex forms. He is as much at home trading riffs with a smoking funk band as he is communing with a world-class post-bop rhythm section — and that drives purists on both sides of the fence up the wall.

Having taken up the piano at age seven, Hancock quickly became known as a prodigy, soloing in the first movement of a Mozart piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony at the age of 11. After studies at Grinnell College, Hancock was invited by Donald Byrd in 1961 to join his group in New York City, and before long, Blue Note offered him a solo contract. His debut album, Takin’ Off, took off indeed after Mongo Santamaria covered one of the album’s songs, “Watermelon Man.” In May 1963, Miles Davis asked him to join his band in time for the Seven Steps to Heaven sessions, and he remained there for five years, greatly influencing Miles’ evolving direction, loosening up his own style, and, upon Miles’ suggestion, converting to the Rhodes electric piano. In that time span, Hancock’s solo career also blossomed on Blue Note, pouring forth increasingly sophisticated compositions like “Maiden Voyage,” “Cantaloupe Island,” “Goodbye to Childhood,” and the exquisite “Speak Like a Child” (https://youtu.be/x-cfaxKXIi0). He also played on many East Coast recording sessions for producer Creed Taylor and provided a groundbreaking score to Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow Up, which gradually led to further movie assignments.

Having left the Davis band in 1968, Hancock recorded an elegant funk album, Fat Albert Rotunda, and in 1969 formed a sextet that evolved into one of the most exciting, forward-looking jazz-rock groups of the era. Now deeply immersed in electronics, Hancock added the synthesizer of Patrick Gleeson to his Echoplexed, fuzz-wah-pedaled electric piano and clavinet, and the recordings became spacier and more complex rhythmically and structurally, creating its own corner of the avant-garde. By 1970, all of the musicians used both English and African names (Herbie’s was Mwandishi). Alas, Hancock had to break up the band in 1973 when it ran out of money, and having studied Buddhism, he concluded that his ultimate goal should be to make his audiences happy.

The next step, then, was a terrific funk group whose first album, Head Hunters, with its Sly Stone-influenced hit single, “Chameleon,” became the biggest-selling jazz LP up to that time. Now handling all of the synthesizers himself, Hancock’s heavily rhythmic comping often became part of the rhythm section, leavened by interludes of the old urbane harmonies. Hancock recorded several electric albums of mostly superior quality in the ’70s, followed by a wrong turn into disco around the decade’s end. In the meantime, Hancock refused to abandon acoustic jazz. After a one-shot reunion of the 1965 Miles Davis Quintet (Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Wayne Shorter, with Freddie Hubbard sitting in for Miles) at New York’s 1976 Newport Jazz Festival, they went on tour the following year as V.S.O.P. The near-universal acclaim of the reunions proved that Hancock was still a whale of a pianist; that Miles’ loose mid-’60s post-bop direction was far from spent; and that the time for a neo-traditional revival was near, finally bearing fruit in the ’80s with Wynton Marsalis and his ilk. V.S.O.P. continued to hold sporadic reunions through 1992, though the death of the indispensable Williams in 1997 cast much doubt as to whether these gatherings would continue.

Hancock continued his chameleonic ways in the ’80s: scoring an MTV hit in 1983 with the scratch-driven, proto-industrial single “Rockit” (accompanied by a striking video); launching an exciting partnership with Gambian kora virtuoso Foday Musa Suso that culminated in the swinging 1986 live album Jazz Africa; doing film scores; and playing festivals and tours with the Marsalis brothers, George Benson, Michael Brecker, and many others. After his 1988 techno-pop album, Perfect Machine, Hancock left Columbia (his label since 1973), signed a contract with Qwest that came to virtually nothing (save for A Tribute to Miles in 1992), and finally made a deal with Polygram in 1994 to record jazz for Verve and release pop albums on Mercury. Well into a youthful middle age, Hancock’s curiosity, versatility, and capacity for growth showed no signs of fading, and in 1998 he issued Gershwin’s World. His curiosity with the fusion of electronic music and jazz continued with 2001’s Future 2 Future, but he also continued to explore the future of straight-ahead contemporary jazz with 2005’s Possibilities. An intriguing album of jazz treatments of Joni Mitchell compositions called River: The Joni Letters was released in 2007. In 2010 Hancock released his The Imagine Project album, which was recorded in seven countries and featured a host of collaborators, including Dave Matthews, Anoushka Shankar, Jeff Beck, the Chieftains, John Legend, India.Arie, Seal, P!nk, Juanes, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Chaka Khan, K’NAAN, Wayne Shorter, James Morrison, and Lisa Hannigan. He was also named Creative Chair for the New Los Angeles Philharmonic. ~ Richard S. Ginell.

Billie Holiday – 1915-1959. Photo credit: SDBP Radio

Billie Holiday was an American jazz and swing music singer. Nicknamed “Lady Day” by her friend and music partner, Lester Young, Holiday had an innovative influence on jazz music and pop singing. Her vocal style, strongly inspired by jazz instrumentalists, pioneered a new way of manipulating phrasing and tempo. She signed a recording contract with Brunswick in 1935. Collaborations with Teddy Wilson produced the hit “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”, (https://youtu.be/w8llIYf5tVk) which became a jazz standard. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Holiday had mainstream success on labels such as Columbia and Decca. By the late 1940s, however, she was beset with legal troubles and drug abuse. After a short prison sentence, she performed at a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall. She was a successful concert performer throughout the 1950s with two further sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall.

Gene Krupa – 1909-1973. Photo credit: drummerworld

Eugene Bertram Krupa was an American jazz drummer, bandleader and composer who performed with energy and showmanship. His drum solo on Benny Goodman’s 1937 recording of “Sing, Sing, Sing” (https://youtu.be/9UlOhzLqIY0) elevated the role of the drummer from an accompanist to an important solo voice in the band. In collaboration with the Slingerland drum and Zildjian cymbal manufacturers, he was a major force in defining the standard band drummer’s kit. Krupa is considered “the founding father of the modern drumset” by Modern Drummer magazine.

Cleo Laine – 1927- Photo credit: theatregold memorabilia

Dame Cleo Laine, Lady Dankworth DBE is an English jazz and pop singer and an actress, known for her scat singing and for her vocal range. Though her natural range is that of a contralto, she is able to produce a G above high C, giving her an overall compass of well over three octaves. Laine is the only female performer to have received Grammy nominations in the jazz, popular and classical music categories. She is the widow of jazz composer and musician Sir John Dankworth. Laine auditioned successfully, at the age of 24, for John Dankworth’s small group, the Dankworth Seven, and later his orchestra, with which she performed until 1958. Dankworth and Laine married that year. During this period, she had two major recording successes. “You’ll Answer to Me” (https://youtu.be/ke37yLx8xoY) reached the British Top 10 while Laine was “prima donna” in the 1961 Edinburgh Festival production of Kurt Weill’s opera/ballet The Seven Deadly Sins, directed and choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan. In 1964 her Shakespeare and All that Jazz (https://youtu.be/gBADj2eTIuM) album with Dankworth was well received. Dankworth and Laine founded the Stables theatre in 1970 in what was the old stables block in the grounds of their home. It eventually hosted over 350 concerts per year.

Charlie Mingus – 1922-1979 Photo credit: ArtPhotoLimited

One of the most important figures in twentieth century American music, Charles Mingus was a virtuoso bass player, accomplished pianist, bandleader and composer. Born on a military base in Nogales, Arizona in 1922 and raised in Watts, California, his earliest musical influences came from the church– choir and group singing– and from “hearing Duke Ellington over the radio when [he] was eight years old.” He studied double bass and composition in a formal way (five years with H. Rheinshagen, principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic, and compositional techniques with the legendary Lloyd Reese) while absorbing vernacular music from the great jazz masters, first-hand. His early professional experience, in the 40’s, found him touring with bands like Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Lionel Hampton.

Eventually he settled in New York where he played and recorded with the leading musicians of the 1950’s– Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Bud Powell, Art Tatum and Duke Ellington himself. One of the few bassists to do so, Mingus quickly developed as a leader of musicians. He was also an accomplished pianist who could have made a career playing that instrument. By the mid-50’s he had formed his own publishing and recording companies to protect and document his growing repertoire of original music. He also founded the “Jazz Workshop,” a group which enabled young composers to have their new works performed in concert and on recordings.

Mingus soon found himself at the forefront of the avant-garde. His recordings bear witness to the extraordinarily creative body of work that followed. They include: Pithecanthropus Erectus, The Clown, Tijuana Moods, Mingus Dynasty, Mingus Ah Um, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Cumbia and Jazz Fusion, Let My Children Hear Music. He recorded over a hundred albums and wrote over three hundred scores.

Although he wrote his first concert piece, “Half-Mast Inhibition,” when he was seventeen years old, it was not recorded until twenty years later by a 22-piece orchestra with Gunther Schuller conducting. It was the presentation of “Revelations” (https://youtu.be/nHcF2NL9uqE) which combined jazz and classical idioms, at the 1955 Brandeis Festival of the Creative Arts, that established him as one of the foremost jazz composers of his day.

In 1971 Mingus was awarded the Slee Chair of Music and spent a semester teaching composition at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In the same year his autobiography, Beneath the Underdog, was published by Knopf. In 1972 it appeared in a Bantam paperback and was reissued after his death, in 1980, by Viking/Penguin and again by Pantheon Books, in 1991. In 1972 he also re-signed with Columbia Records. His music was performed frequently by ballet companies, and Alvin Ailey choreographed an hour program called “The Mingus Dances” during a 1972 collaboration with the Robert Joffrey Ballet Company.

He toured extensively throughout Europe, Japan, Canada, South America and the United States until the end of 1977 when he was diagnosed as having a rare nerve disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. He was confined to a wheelchair, and although he was no longer able to write music on paper or compose at the piano, his last works were sung into a tape recorder.

From the 1960’s until his death in 1979 at age 56, Mingus remained in the forefront of American music. When asked to comment on his accomplishments, Mingus said that his abilities as a bassist were the result of hard work but that his talent for composition came from God.

Mingus received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Smithsonian Institute, and the Guggenheim Foundation (two grants). He also received an honorary degree from Brandeis and an award from Yale University. At a memorial following Mingus’ death, Steve Schlesinger of the Guggenheim Foundation commented that Mingus was one of the few artists who received two grants and added: “I look forward to the day when we can transcend labels like jazz and acknowledge Charles Mingus as the major American composer that he is.” The New Yorker wrote: “For sheer melodic and rhythmic and structural originality, his compositions may equal anything written in western music in the twentieth century.”

Thelonious Monk – 1917-1982 Photo credit: HorseSpirits Art Gallery

Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer. He had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including “‘Round Midnight” (https://youtu.be/IrAfjW5qiyo), “Blue Monk”, “Straight, No Chaser”, “Ruby, My Dear”, “In Walked Bud”, and “Well, You Needn’t.” Monk is the second-most-recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington.

Monk’s compositions and improvisations feature dissonances and angular melodic twists and are consistent with his unorthodox approach to the piano, which combined a highly percussive attack with abrupt, dramatic use of switched key releases, silences, and hesitations.

Monk’s distinct look included suits, hats, and sunglasses. He also had an idiosyncratic habit during performances: while other musicians continued playing, Monk would stop, stand up, and dance for a few moments before returning to the piano.

Monk is one of five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of Time (the others being Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Duke Ellington and Wynton Marsalis).

Wes Montgomery – 1923-1968 Photo credit: Jazzziz magazine

John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery was an American jazz guitarist. Montgomery was known for an unusual technique of plucking the strings with the side of his thumb and his extensive use of octaves, which gave him a distinctive sound. Montgomery often worked with his brothers Buddy and Monk and with organist Melvin Rhyne. His recordings up to 1965 were oriented towards hard bop, soul jazz, and post bop, but around 1965 he began recording more pop-oriented instrumental albums that found mainstream success. His later guitar style influenced jazz fusion and smooth jazz.

According to jazz guitar educator Wolf Marshall, Montgomery often approached solos in a three-tiered manner: he would begin the progression with single note lines, derived from scales or modes; after a fitting number of sequences, he would play octaves for a few more sequences, finally culminating with block chords. He used mostly superimposed triads and arpeggios as the main source for his soloing ideas and sounds.[1]

Instead of using a guitar pick, Montgomery plucked the strings with the fleshy part of his thumb, using down strokes for single notes and a combination of up strokes and down strokes for chords and octaves. He developed this technique not for technical reasons but for the benefit of his neighbors. He worked long hours as a machinist before his music career began and practiced late at night. To keep neighbors from complaining, he played quietly by using his thumb. He earned two Grammy nominations: in 1965 for “Bumpin” (https://youtu.be/ER8Q504Vro8) and in 1969 “Willow Weep for Me” (https://youtu.be/WA9LgbV8oTc).

Charlie Parker – 1920-1955 Photo credit: All About Jazz

Charles Parker Jr., nicknamed “Bird” or “Yardbird”, was an American jazz saxophonist, band leader and composer. Parker was a highly influential soloist and leading figure in the development of bebop, a form of jazz characterized by fast tempos, virtuosic technique, and advanced harmonies. Parker was an extremely brilliant virtuoso and introduced revolutionary rhythmic and harmonic ideas into jazz, including rapid passing chords, new variants of altered chords, and chord substitutions. Primarily a player of the alto saxophone, Parker’s tone ranged from clean and penetrating to sweet and somber. Parker compositions, such as “Yardbird Suite”, “Ornithology” 1946 Grammy, “Bird Gets the Worm”, and “Bird of Paradise”, “Billies Bounce” 1945 Grammy, Charlie Parker with Strings 1950 Grammy, “Jazz at Massey Hall” 1953 Grammy (https://youtube.com/playlist?list=RDQMmQjmNbaxLjM&playnext=1). Parker was an icon for the hipsters culture and later the Beat Generation, personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual rather than just an entertainer. Although he produced many brilliant recordings during this period, Parker’s behavior became increasingly erratic. Heroin was difficult to obtain once he moved to California, where the drug was less abundant, so he used alcohol as a substitute.

Django Reinhardt – 1910-1953 Photo credit: Alamy

Jean Reinhardt, known by his Romani nickname Django, was a Romani-French jazz guitarist and composer. He was one of the first major jazz talents to emerge in Europe and has been hailed as one of its most significant exponents.

With violinist Stéphane Grappelli, Reinhardt formed the Paris-based Quintette du Hot Club de France in 1934. The group was among the first to play jazz that featured the guitar as a lead instrument. Reinhardt recorded in France with many visiting American musicians, including Coleman Hawkins and Benny Carter, and briefly toured the United States with Duke Ellington’s orchestra in 1946. He died suddenly of a stroke in 1953 at the age of 43.

Reinhardt’s most popular compositions have become standards within gypsy jazz, including “Minor Swing”, “Daphne” (https://youtu.be/UG9nm9yFgKE), “Belleville”, “Djangology”, “Swing ’42”, and “Nuages”. Jazz guitarist Frank Vignola says that nearly every major popular-music guitarist in the world has been influenced by Reinhardt.

Buddy Rich – 1917-1987. Photo credit: DRUM Magazine

Bernard “Buddy” Rich was an American jazz drummer, songwriter, conductor, and bandleader. He is considered one of the most influential drummers of all time. Rich was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, United States. He discovered his affinity for jazz music at a young age and began drumming at the age of two.

He began playing jazz in 1937, working with acts such as Bunny Berigan, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie, and Harry James. From 1942 to 1944, Rich served in the U.S. Marines. From 1945 to 1948, he led the Buddy Rich Orchestra. In 1966, he recorded a big-band style arrangement of songs from West Side Story (https://youtu.be/4PASeqo0oAE). He found lasting success in 1966 with the formation of the Buddy Rich Big Band, also billed as the The Big Band Machine. Between 1948-1985 he produced 48 albums.

Rich was known for his virtuoso technique, power, and speed. He was an advocate of the traditional grip, though he occasionally used matched grip when playing the toms. Despite his commercial success and musical talent, Rich never learned how to read sheet music, preferring to listen to drum parts and play them from memory.

Ronnie Scott – 1927-1996 Photo credit: New York Times

Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club has been an enduring beacon of musical genius in London. Any self-respecting jazzhead had to make the pilgrimage to the venue during its 1960s heyday. Musicians, too: Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald played it, along with Buddy Rich and Dizzy Gillespie.

Scott, one of its benevolent owners, was as hallowed as the establishment itself, but remained a somewhat mysterious figure throughout his life. A charming tenor saxophonist with a warm demeanor and great comedic timing, he also had a gambling addiction and endured bouts of depression. Even those closest to him didn’t feel like they connected with him.

“He was a very hard person to know,” Paul Pace, the club’s current music bookings coordinator, said in an interview. “He was a very quiet, private man.”

Scott died in 1996 at the age of 69. The venue he opened with a fellow saxophonist, Pete King, is still holy ground among jazz supper clubs in the United Kingdom, and “Ronnie’s,” a new documentary getting a wider release in the United States this week, offers a multidimensional view of Scott and the nightclub through the perspective of journalists, friends and musicians who knew him — and a host of live performance footage. The film celebrates how the spot with narrow hallways and a tiny stage housed all sorts of grand performances, including Jimi Hendrix’s last gig before his 1970 death. And it reveals that the secret of the venue’s success largely was Scott, himself, who drew in patrons like he was an old friend who just happened to know the best players of his era. One of his best recordings was “Great Scott” (https://youtube.com/playlist?list=OLAK5uy_mTSjrm0ZuVPZFiL8HDSsMtuST7Yt9I_7A).

Paul Desmond (1924-1977)
Photo Credit: geni.com

Desmond, Paul (Dave Brubeck). “Take Five” (saxophone) Post 36 (https://youtu.be/l8ToDoj-pWM) (RQ 9).

Marv Johnson (1938-1993)
Photo Credit: picels.com

Johnson, Marv. “You Got What It Takes.” Jazz – 22 of 23 Genres. (https://youtu.be/nu0IyLWgDgs) (RQ 8).