Movie Review – Ronnie’s (2020)

Ronnie’s, 2020.

Written and Directed by Oliver Murray.



Ronnie’s explores the legacy, lineage and longevity behind the most revered jazz club in London. Through rare and intimate archive footage writer director Oliver Murray documents Ronnie Scott in all his idiosyncrasies. The man, the musician and reluctant cultural icon who loved music to his core.


There is something hypnotic about this documentary which seeps through the pores, melts into the bloodstream and propels audiences back to a bygone era. This is not just a film for fans of jazz but for anyone who professes a love of music. It features musical great and embraces a time when creative freedom was paramount. Big business corporations, non-disclosure agreements and committee made pop stars had yet to rear their ugly heads. London was a melting pot of influences which embraced everything without discrimination, making sure to not only defy boundaries but redefine them according to taste.

In many ways this exploration of Ronnie Scott is as much about that time as his involvement in it. Including contributions from Quincy Jones, Chris Blackwell and oddly enough Michael Parkinson much of the pleasure here is had through enjoying unique archive performances. Jimi Hendrix, Chet Baker and Miles Davis stand alongside Ella Fitzgerald, Van Morrison and Buddy Rich. All caught on camera in the club for an enraptured audience.


Decades fly by as writer and director Oliver Murray sketches the rise of Ronnie through big band collaborations, stateside concerts and finally back to London. His establishment of the club came out of necessity, was driven by creative need and became both a blessing and burden. In one revolutionary move Ronnie Scott broke the mould and redefined the division between club owner and musician.

What started as a small concern run by himself and Pete King ballooned into this musical Mecca, where celebrities would congregate to drink in the atmosphere. Ronnie’s touches on the personal issues which haunted him his whole life and is candid in examining those shortcomings. This is no glossy half-baked affair but rather a film of genuine humility which attempts to get beneath the skin of an enigma.


Revered music journalist John Fordham is joined by current owners Sally Greene and Michael Watt in extolling the virtues of this institution. More than anything Ronnie’s is a cultural document comparable only to something like The Establishment Club in terms of impact. A comedy venue fronted by Peter Cook only open for three years, yet referred to with the same reverence amongst aficionados. Where the two differ of course is in the fact that one was merely a folly, whilst its counterpart went from trendy to trend defining without shutting up shop.

On a broader level Ronnie’s examines the fragile ego of performers, who in some cases found social interaction challenging off stage. That is where Oliver Murray’s film really raises the bar in its ability to look behind the curtain of musical genius to reveal the person beneath. Not only is that an invaluable quality in a documentary, but one which makes this essential viewing.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Martin Carr


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