A new documentary chronicling the life of British tenor saxophonist and club owner Ronnie Scott and his namesake jazz institution in London features the lost audio of Jimi Hendrix’s final performance on Sept. 16, 1970.
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Directed by Oliver Murray, Ronnie’s (Greenwich Entertainment), out Feb. 11, features previously unseen and unheard performances at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club by Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Chet Baker, Van Morrison, and many more.
Additionally, Ronnie’s plays a never-before-heard bootleg of Jimi Hendrix sitting in with Eric Burdon and War, just two days before his death, a performance recorded by a member of the audience.
The audiotape featuring Hendrix performing with Eric Burdon and War includes interviews with people attending the show that night, including Ronnie Baker who recorded the impromptu performance on a tape recorder, and War guitarist Howard E. Scott.
“To recall what happened that night at Ronnie Scott’s was a magical night, and I’ll never forget it,” said Scott in the trailer for the film. “We were booked at Ronnie Scott’s, Eric Burdon and War. We were probably one of the hottest bands in London at the time. We were on fire.”
That evening, War began playing a cover of Memphis Slim’s 1951 blues song “Mother Earth” when Scott noticed Hendrix, who had shown up to Ronnie Scott’s unannounced, heading toward the stage, guitar in hand.
“I was standing on stage and I saw him out in the audience and he had a Strat [Stratocaster] in his hands, and he was coming towards the stage, and I noticed his eyes so white and wide open,” recalled Scott. “He was ready to play.”
Scott added, “Jimi lit into a guitar solo, I mean, me and Jimi were just cutting the place up, we were tearing it up, just me and him, back and forth, back and forth… That night at Ronnie’s my feet weren’t touching the ground.”
The band later got word that Hendrix had died on Sept. 18. “It was a terrible, terrible thought right then,” said Scott, “that I was the last guitarist to play with him.”
Scott, who passed away in 1996, founded the nightclub with business partner Pete King in 1959, and Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club quickly became the most famous music venue in London, from top bookings and the connection Scott had to many artists, who frequented his club and others who got their first breaks at the venue.
Open for more than 60 years, the club continues to spotlight jazz and artists across genres.
On Dec. 6, 2021, The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, and Keith Richards played a secret show at the jazz club to celebrate the band’s drummer Charlie Watts, who passed away on Aug. 24, 2021, and played a small set including the Jimmy Reed classic “Shame, Shame, Shame” and a cover of the Will Bradley Trio song “Down The Road a Piece.”
Photo: Greenwich Entertainment / YouTube