The Icebox was a weekly jazz club run by enthusiasts at the White Hart in the Wiltshire village of Ford. In May 1974 the Ronnie Scott Trio played the venue as part of a nationwide tour and by all accounts they tore the roof down. The performance was caught on tape, possibly by John Critchinson who was helping to run the club and the set is issued here for the first time.
This trio was one of Ronnie Scott’s longest running outfits. It had formed three years earlier, initially with Tony Crombie on drums prior to being succeeded by South African Bobby Gein. Unbeknown at the time of this recording, however, it was nearing the end of its days and a few months later the band petered out.
In an engaging booklet that accompanies the album, Simon Spillett places the performance squarely within the context of events at the time. 1974 saw the three-day week and the fall of the Heath government; Harold Wilson was returned as prime minister; the IRA planted bombs in Guildford and London pubs; Lord Lucan vanished without trace and ABBA’s Waterloo won the Eurovision Song Contest. For Scott himself it was a year beset by personal problems and depression. Several friends had not long died and his partner and mother of a two-year-old daughter had left him. Despite all, Scott’s playing on this session is surprisingly bright and assertive.
The set begins with a blistering blues. On two of the following numbers – “What’s New” and “Angel Eyes” – we hear Scott uncommonly and soulfully on soprano sax. “Stella by Starlight” has startling changes in tempo and at four minutes in, it propels to rocket speed unlike any version I’ve heard before. The crowd shout and cheer ecstatically. Mike Carr (brother of Ian Carr) on organ is thunderous in a triumphant delivery of “On A Clear Day” and with Bobby Gein’s heavy-rock drumming and machine-gun attacks this must have been ear-splitting close up. The last number, Brother Jack McDuff’s energetic blues, “Lou’s Piece”, has the band really pulling out all the stops but unfortunately the tape cuts it short at the end.
On listening to this album you can really capture what it would have been like one night 44 years ago, walking into this hot, dark and probably smoke-filled room with the band going full pelt at the far end. It’s invariably loud. The Hammond tends to dominate. The sound quality doesn’t compare with a modern studio recording but it’s a remarkable blast from the past in more ways than one.
A Blues; What’s New; Stella by Starlight; Angel Eyes; On a Clear Day; Lou’s Piece (53.05)
Scott (ss, ts); Mike Carr (org); Bobby Gein (d). The White Hart, Ford, Wiltshire May 1974.
Acrobat ACMCD 4397