Following on from my recent exhortations to snap up the remaining tickets for the Ronnie Scott’s week, it appears you took heed and promptly did same, giving us an unqualified success and sold-out shows every night of what turned out to be a magic week in Soho. From what I could see and hear around me, the reaction was palpable and genuinely appreciative, and the comments relayed to us by staff and other in-house functionaries seemed to be glowing and generous, to say the least.
The band had a blast, and most of the sets exceeded our projected energy level – in no small part to the instant feedback of yourselves out there in the house – and our ability to reign in our normal concert show to such an intimate space without noticeable compromise musically or sonically was more than gratifying for us, too. It’s always rather daunting to gamble that our kind of noise will translate to a venue as venerable, and therefore as under-the-microscope as that, given our audience’s demanding nature. Our fellow musicians (and sometime critics) and the club itself must measure us against the legends that have graced that hallowed stage. It seems our fears were unfounded, but we weren’t half on a bit of ‘edge’ to begin with, until we settled in to the vibe of the place and the routine of rehearsals and nightly showtimes to hone our knives to surgical keenness for the upcoming rigours of the weekend’s double-show nights.
There were a few lighthearted moments, too; on Friday’s first show, we heard repeated squawks from a table off to the right, as a besotted (and well-lubricated) fan tried gallantly, but vainly, to interject garbled outburst of lyrics to Let’s Go Round Again between much of our set – rather like one of those motorway service station rubber toys that you can wind up & shake, and out comes a strangled Elton, Elvis or Frosty The Snowman. It gave us, and a few in the house a spot of light relief from our otherwise determined and deeply-committed set, but culminated in her getting on stage, grabbing Onnie’s mic., and proceeding to launch into a moment of spontaneous karaoke on said song. Fred, our ever-coiled ‘mossad’ security-saxophonist, leapt across, took the microphone away, and gently eased her exit from stage right with an implored, “Not now, MUM”, to the audience which gave a potentially difficult moment a light touch while we regrouped to perform the much-desired piece itself.
A standout memory from Wednesday night was the welcome reunion with old friend Jim Mullen who sat in for the end of the set with us, and played some spine-tingling guitar on Put It Where You Want It. Jim and I first met at the Blue Workshop, a mid-sixties ad hoc fortnightly jazz & blues gathering in my hometown of Perth (along with Molly Duncan & Roger Ball – later to become our ‘Dundee Horns’ – and a fledgling Robbie McIntosh, original lynchpin to the very idea of what became AWB), which saw us all delve into hitherto untried combinations of young and uninhibited ensembles, and an anything-goes approach to stuff that was mainly and patently way above our heads, but which resonated in our souls and gave us the necessary moxie to flee the coop for London one-by-one, and end up with lasting alliances and the ensuing kudos that has provided us all with a blessed existence at the heart of our, then, dreamed-of future.
Thanks again, Jim, for another magic moment for the annals, and for an obviously-thrilled house that went away with an extra story to tell. That’s what Ronnie’s is all about, as I said in my prior piece, and long may it continue to be so. Our thanks to the staff who worked their collective ass off throughout the week, ferrying vast oceans of expensive refreshments to packed houses without ever seeming to get in our sight-line or in our ‘zone’ during the quieter moments of the set. I think the exuberance of the somewhat-gruelling week physically (and mentally) for us was best defused in a moment of farce as we departed the club doorway for the final time at about 3am on Sunday morning, as a posse of Soho’s Finest beat cops were preparing to split up and end their weekend’s street vigil and patrol, right beside us. Their brisk move off coincided with young McIntyre bumbling down the steps to the pavement on his club exodus, his gig-clothes hanging-bag over his arm, whereupon one of the protruding coat hangers snagged the belt clip of one of the members of the constabulary as he strode off, trailing Onnie with him until the pair of them seemed to engage in a mutually-shocked surreal tango in mid Frith Street as each tried to extricate the other from their highly-unconventional entwinement. Had we all stopped howling with laughter, we might have considered the possible consequence of what must have seemed to the officer-in-question a likely attack on his personage, with who-knows-what results. Fortunately it provided a brilliant footnote to an extraordinary week of music and fun, and the ability for us to put to rest a sense that this had been a big missing piece in squaring the AWB circle back to where it all began for us – just two streets away, at the Marquee, in 1973.
As the lady would say in the Greek caff round the corner, “it was luvalee week, dahlin’, dunnit?”
Alan Gorrie, Sep.16, 2010