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The best music venues in London: Ronnie Scott's

The city's 20 best places to see live music, as voted by you – get the latest gig listings and buy tickets

© Paul Wilkinson

Ronnie Scott's

Opened by British saxophonist Ronnie Scott in 1959, Ronnie’s has since amassed as much history as the British Museum. 

The Soho institution was the first UK club to host American jazz musicians such as Zoot Sims and Lee Konitz. Upstairs is where Sonny Rollins recorded the soundtrack to ‘Alfie’ over the course of a weekend’s small hours when the club was shut. It was the scene of Jimi Hendrix’s last ever UK performance. And an especially jammy collective of Tom Waits fans will still boast about their up-close view of the cantankerous legend back in the day.

It continues to book jazz’s biggest names, from trad talents such as Chick Corea to hotly tipped purists like Kurt Elling to futuristic mavericks like Robert Glasper.

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The Man on the Street
The Man on the Street Tastemaker

Ronnies - The place where I have seen some of the best and worst music in town. To be fair, its probably just my taste that tips the scales in either direction. One insanely good night was seeing a guy they call "The Voice". Terry Reid (or was it Reed) - anyway he was very nearly part of Led Zeppelin and when he played Ronnies he nearly shook the whole town. Van Morrison played the same week and was good but did not even come close. On the downside I went in one night for a late beer and saw someone doing things on an acoustic double bass that made ten minutes seem like two hours. 

So my advice is check out who is on before you pay to go in.

Once inside the little Musos Bar downstairs is well worth a visit.

The main room is a sixties throwback with tables and chairs.

The Club upstairs is good. I don't know if its open to all. I am not even sure how I got in.

One thing I do know about Ronnies is that it is an institution that I hope survives.

I think those acoustic bass players have the right to stretch out time , and I saw people in the room loving it. 

Strange !