We are coming back to London, this time to the original home of world-class jazz and blues in the capital, Ronnie Scott’s, for our Soho debut. We’re booked to play the week of September 6 through 11 this summer, and the band is full of expectations and anticipation for the visit. The only previous (and unpaid) time we were on that famous stage was at a record-company do for the press launch of “Show Your Hand” in 1973, and all I can remember is a bloody hangover that lasted a week. This time, however, the gig will last a week - we will be more abstemious.
We’ve always eagerly looked forward to our many Jazz Café sojourns over the years, but there is an extra frisson of excitement to this particular pilgrimage, as it will complete a missing piece of the AWB jigsaw puzzle. Because it’s Ronnie’s, everyone is buzzing about how we can best perform as much of our musical history as possible in that week – everything we collectively love from the not-inconsiderable catalogue of hits (and misses - some of those are the best), and in which context to play them. We’re also hoping some of our muzo pals will join us through the week for spontaneous combustions and surprise guest appearances if they’re in town.
When we were mere musical ingénues and apprentices in the late Sixties and then early-Seventies London, if there was a spare fiver in the pocket, we would go to Ronnie’s to hear an Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, McCoy Tyner, a Return to Forever or even a ribald late set with “The Melly” – all for a quid with an M.U. membership – and still have the means to order a ‘Spag Bog’ for that night’s meal (and probably the next day’s too; these were tough times). Of course there was Ronnie Scott himself, along with Tubby Hayes, Pete King, the other Ronnie (Ross), Bill LeSage, Harold McNair, Alan Skidmore, all of whom on a good night could hold their own against any NY squad – recordings prove my point – and of course, Ronnie’s pithy and witty delivery introducing his peerless performers was some of the best stand-up in town. A shrine to an everlasting and continuing musical legacy, of which we’re proud to now be a part, set as it is against today’s backdrop of machine-driven and loony-looped ‘music-products’, where the pitch-rider is far more important than the pitcher.
Dinosaurs we may seem to be to some (who obviously don’t get about enough), but take a trip to BB Kings in NY City, The Birchmere in DC, or The Greek Theatre in L.A., and see what the music does to a hardened and consummately-educated ethnic audience and you will realize that this shit is timeless, irrespective of the newer names in our lineup or the ages of its protagonists (I seem to remember Blakey’s Jazz Messengers had an ever-changing name-call too, to their constant benefit). We can’t wait to stir the porridge and lay down some grooves in a few weeks. This should be an historic, and not-unemotional week for a band that flew in the face of dire warnings back in ‘72/’73 that it “couldn’t be done”. Once again, we will bloody-well do it.
If all of this reeks of hyperbole, then wear a mask and read on. I am not kidding when I say that this is undoubtedly the most committed and spirited version of AWB since the blood-rush of the original days, and that special six who took it past the winning-post first time around. A warning, though: there won’t be any tickets left after your hols. (in fact, as I write, only Mon – Wed. have many real seat choices left, and a mere sprinkling at the weekend), so get your dibs in now. It’s our sole UK event for this year, so please don’t miss a somewhat special premiere at Ronnie’s. See you all in Frith Street, Sep. 6,7,8,9 (one show each night) Sep.10, 11 (two shows each).