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
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
music review
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Boy George performing with Culture Club at Heaven

musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years

Arts and Entertainment
Laura Wood, winner of the Montegrappa Scholastic Prize for New Children’s Writing
books

Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search

Arts and Entertainment
Pulling the strings: Spira Mirabilis

music
Arts and Entertainment
Neville's Island at Duke of York's theatre
musicReview: The production has been cleverly cast with a quartet of comic performers best known for the work on television
Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol

art
Arts and Entertainment
Lynda Bellingham stars in her last Oxo advert with on-screen husband Michael Redfern

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

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.

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker