Hampstead Press £19.95

Ronnie Scott's Jazz Farrago, By Jim Godbolt

The editor of Ronnie Scott's in-house magazine recalls a vanished era of bad puns and trad dads

Many books about jazz manage a curious feat: they turn a musical history peopled by the disreputable, the eccentric and the romantic (not to mention the alcoholic or even more adventurously addicted) into dull lists of dates and recording sessions. Fortunately, this is not one of those books. Instead, it is a treasure trove of anecdote, enthusiasm, oddball interviews, whimsy, wonderful cartoons and esoteric jokes. A potpourri perfectly appropriate, then, to convey the essence of that rackety genius, Ronnie Scott, and the London club bearing his name that still stands as one of the world's great jazz venues.

Its author, Jim Godbolt, is ideally placed to splash over this canvas. Graduating from the academy of British jazz life in the 1940s and '50s, with spells as manager and agent for George Webb's Dixielanders and Wally Fawkes's Troglodytes, he discovered new vistas during a four-year period as a meter-reader for the London Electricity Board in the 1970s (not an entirely atypical career diversion; around this time Stan Tracey stopped being the house pianist at Ronnie's and seriously considered becoming a milkman), and then from 1979-2006, he was editor of Jazz at Ronnie Scott's (aka JARS), the monthly in-house magazine that ceased publication after the theatre impresario Sally Greene took over the Soho club.

It is from JARS that this book's material is mostly drawn. The black-and-white pamphlet was endearingly amateur and meandering, and frequently full of howlers, as Godbolt admits: "One concerned Ellington trombonist Lawrence Brown. I wrote that he gave up playing at the age of 65. This appeared as 'gave up laying' which, at his age, may have well been the case..." But JARS kept the reader up to date, with club news and potted biogs of forthcoming attractions – often highly distinguished visitors from the US – while also ranging widely over the history that jazz buffs love so much. Here are to be found accounts of long ago battles between the sharp-suited modernists and trad jazz revivalists, the beer-drinking, beardie "mouldie fygges"; gentle interviews with Spike Milligan, Michael Parkinson and Barbara Windsor (who was a singer with Ronnie Scott's band in the 1950s); profiles of Zoot Sims, Tubby Hayes and Cleo Laine; and musical commentary from the likes of "Professor" Stanley Unwin.

Best of all are Ronnie's jokes, invariably described as bad, but wrongly so. The groan-cum-laugh that usually followed was a tribute to Scott's ultra-dry, deadpan delivery. "You should have been at the club last Monday. Somebody should have been here last Monday. The band was playing 'Tea for One'. At the end of the number the audience was on its foot." And my favourite from this collection: "We got so bored sitting in the band bus that we'd mix LSD with chopped liver and take trips to Israel."

Godbolt is known as a slightly spiky character – George Melly (who wrote this book's foreword before he died) described "his pointed features crouching between his shoulders as though emerging from its burrow into a dangerous world, his eyes as cold and watchful as a pike in the reeds" – and the one time I had occasion to call him, his wariness oozed from the phone. Perhaps he thought I was a "Hooray Henry", a term he claims to have had a part in coining. This all adds to the book's charm, though, and is apiece with the old Ronnie's: a club whose food was advertised by Scott with the words "50 million flies can't be wrong", and where the sweat of the great performers who'd passed through seemed to emanate from the walls (and almost certainly did from the velveteen furnishings).

Does all of this make sense, or even vaguely hang together? Well, here is Prof Unwin on the 1960s: "Beatloders of Polly McCarton, who with Lennontones gabe forth Liverpuddly tunes with Ringold of drummage ... the King, Elvy Presloders, bent kneeclabber all rocky jailhouses too. Evenso, the real jazz creators were carrying the rythmold'*sound of self expressy-ho to infinny in the cosmos for sure. Deep joy."

Quite so.

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders