Jazzmen sound blue note at Scott's farewell

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The Independent Online
The sound of jazz filled the crematorium as friends and family gathered to say goodbye to the great musician and club owner Ronnie Scott yesterday.

The musicians Johnny Dankworth and his wife Cleo Laine, Benny Green and Sonny Rollins, the actor Spike Milligan and the humourist Denis Norden were among those who packed the service in Golders Green, north London.

A giant white and yellow rose wreath in the shape of a saxophone marked the head of the funeral cortege which found it almost impossible to get through the crowds. Around 100 mourners listened to the service by loudspeaker in the bitter cold outside.

The legendary club owner, died suddenly aged 69 two weeks ago. His body was found at his home in Chelsea, west London, last month.

But although shocked and saddened by his unexpected death, friends yesterday laughed as they remembered his sense of humour and paid tribute to the Soho club which became one of the most famous in the world.

Benny Green, a friend for 45 years, said Ronnie's death had left an "enormous hole", and recounted one of Scott's quips. Laid flat on his back by a slipped disc at another friend's funeral, Mr Green was taken to the graveside across the back seat of a car. "It's hardly worth going home," Ronnie had said.

More emotionally, Mr Green said Ronnie was "the most fascinating man I ever befriended ... a virtuoso musician, very funny, well-read, gentle, compassionate".

Sonny Rollins, one of the artists Ronnie Scott was most proud to have presented, described him as "the great saint of jazz". And Johnny Dankworth during an ad lib echo of the jazz tradition of improvisation, reminisced about when he and Ronnie lasted nine months together in a band on the Queen Mary before being sacked for playing practical jokes.

There was, as yet, none among the up-and-coming young jazz musicians of today to match Scott for his great character, Mr Dankworth said. He was applauded when he wished Peter King, Scott's business partner, all the best in keeping the club going.

Prayers were asked for his surviving relatives, before the mourners left for the pilgrimage back to central London, many clutching musical instruments. Ronnie Scott's club was remaining closed last night for the wake.