Jazz Professional               




Remembering Jimmy
Ross, Scott and Deuchar in New York
Report by Ronnie Scott in 1963

Our stint at the Half Note in New York was very enjoyable. The only thing that spoiled it a little was the rhythm section. You know one hears so much about how wonderful American rhythm sections are—especially compared with British sections. I suppose I was expecting something tremendous. But in fact, I would have much preferred to play with the section I work with over here—Stan Tracey, Malcolm Cecil and Ronnie Stephenson.

Allowance must be made for the possibility that the American musicians felt just as strange—and as nervous, perhaps—as we did early on. But the tempos were shaky. Anything that we played fast seemed to get faster, and any of the fast or medium things seemed to get slower. This could, indeed, have been nervousness, for things improved toward the end of the engagement.

Although we did get around and heard some wonderful rhythm sections, I still think that there are a couple, or maybe three sections over in Britain that compare very favourably with just about anything we heard. I didn’t hear many drummers that were as good as Ronnie Stephenson—in fact, very few. But don’t get this wrong. The drummer we had was Walter Perkins. Wyatt Ruther was on bass and Roger Calloway was the pianist. Roger is really very good—fabulous technique and very fluent. A beautiful player. Individually, they were all very good. It was just as a rhythm section with us that we found them a little disappointing. It seemed to me that they were more concerned with playing themselves, as a rhythm section trio, than accompanying the soloists. I’d rather hear a section go with the soloist than concentrate on what they, as a section, are trying to do.

At this time of the year in New York, the clubs do very good business. We were very well received and I believe that the crowds were, at the least, average. But I look forward to the day when groups from Britain can go over as groups. I really think they’d create an impression over there.

There were three of us, of course—Ronnie Ross, Jimmy Deuchar and me. When we went on for our set, we split it up this Ross, Scott and Deucharway: The three of us played one sextet number as a front–line. Then Jimmy and I would play a number. Then Ronnie would come back and play a number alone. Then Jimmy and I took a turn and the last number of the set would have us working as a sextet. Around four numbers a set, in fact.

Jimmy and I worked together because we had a lot of arrangements and head things that we used—a whole library from the time when he and I had a quintet. We had never worked with Ronnie before, so even that was a bit strange. It’s a pity that we didn’t have more time to rehearse the three–strong front–line. But it worked out pretty well.

There was no shortage of material. But I wish that we’d had to work much harder. All we did was about two–and–a–bit sets a night. After our set, there’d be a break of perhaps half an hour. Then Zoot would go on with the same rhythm section for his set. Then a break for the rhythm men before we went on again.

But that’s the sort of club the Half Note is—a very congenial place. No one pressures. Excellent working conditions. But actually I’d have welcomed more playing time.

Roland Kirk dropped in to sit–in with us one evening. A fantastic player. He came on to the stand absolutely festooned with instruments—like a musical Christmas tree. Apart from three or four around his neck, he had another three or four on the floor. He’s not really the sort of guy to sit in. More of a group in himself.

He’s very interested in coming over to work at my club and I hope to arrange that. He’d be a sensation—because he really is a fantastic player. As well as being able to do what he does with two or three instruments, he can play them all separately very well. We’re trying for September or October—but it’s just negotiations, so far. The idea is for Tubby to do an exchange at the Half Note, some time during September. I think they’d like to have him back.

The actual physical set—up there is a bit strange. They have a very high bandstand—about four feet high—which divides the room into two parts. It’s open all round, a rostrum–type thing. On one side of the room is a bar and the other side has tables and chairs. You play facing the rhythm section—which was strange for us. But one gets used to it. Toward the end of the engagement, things were beginning to sound very good.

We had some time to look around. Monk’s quartet, with Charlie Rouse, was marvellous. We saw Dizzy Gillespie’s quintet at the Embers. Also very good—especially James Moody, who played tenor, alto and flute. Mind you, the Embers isn’t really a jazz club—just a very high–class restaurant club. Dizzy seemed to be there mainly on his name value and because he clowns around a little. It isn’t really a jazz audience. Nevertheless, Dizzy was wonderful.

The favourite group there is the Jonah Jones Quartet. We heard Maynard Ferguson’s band at the Metropole. Excellent. This new band is very good. Very spirited. And the soloists were fine. It’s a very young band. There were a baritone and tenor—neither of whom I had  heard of before that were particularly impressive.

Zoot took us down to a recording studio where they have a rehearsal band every Monday evening—a big band with people like Phil Woods, Zoot, Willie Dennis and Billy Byers on trombones, Thad Jones, Ed Shaughnessy on drums, Lalo Schifrin on piano, Richard Davis on bass. About eight brass, five saxes. They were rehearsing a Phil Woods arrangement. It appears he’s just starting to write some things. It sounded marvellous—a really wonderful big band.

And we heard a recording session of James Moody’s, where the arrangements were written by a guy named Tommy Mackintosh, who was over in Britain some years ago, I think. I’ve an idea he did some things with Johnny Dankworth’s band. He was originally a trombone player, I believe. This Moody band had three trumpets, three trombones, two French horns, tuba, flute and no saxophones. Moody was the soloist. Also very good.

Across from the Embers, the Establishment revue was on. They were just about to close up when we went over, but I met Gene Ramey there, the bassist, an old friend of mine from my first visit to the States. He was working there with the Teddy Wilson Trio. Teddy came down to the Half Note later to hear us. Dizzy Reece dropped in, too, looking fat and well. Most of the British contingent came around—Johnny Weed, Lennie Metcalfe, Derek Smith, Ronnie Roullier. It seemed to be all piano players. A lot of American guys came, too—Bob Brookmeyer, Clark Terry, Art Farmer, Gary McFarland, Gene Quill, Al Cohn, Dave Bailey, Bill Crow.

Yes, I enjoyed it all—but a short stay in New York is all I can take, quite frankly. In the summer, with the heat. And we were at an hotel right on Times Square. So that when we got up around lunchtime and walked straight out into the heat and traffic....

If you’re living there, you sort of settle into the routine. A couple of weeks is no acclimatisation. Coming back here is like taking a rest–cure.


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