A DAY IN THE LIFE: THE STORY OF THE YAMAHA S6 HOUSE PIANO AT RONNIE SCOTT'S JAZZ CLUB
The club's Artistic Director and leader of the Ronnie Scott's Allstars, James Pearson tells all.
Located in the heart of London's Soho district and founded in 1959, Ronnie Scott's is arguably the most famous Jazz Club in the world. As well as playing host to the world's best jazz musicians, the club was the venue chosen by The Who for the premiere Pete Townshend's Rock Opera 'Tommy', as well as being the location of Jimi Hendrix's last gig.
Countless jazz fans and musicians have enjoyed and praised the sound of the famed Ronnie Scott's handcrafted Yamaha S6 house piano, which is heard regularly on the radio broadcasts from the club. We are often asked about the piano so we decided to catch up with the club’s Artistic Director, James Pearson to ask him about his relationship with the famous S6.
"I love this piano! It’s the second Yamaha S6 we've had at Ronnie's, this particular model was shipped over from Hamburg about 3 years ago and prepared to my specifications. I asked the Yamaha technicians to prepare the treble to be a softer tone, which works especially well with the acoustics and the amplification system at the club."
James is clearly a big S6 fan, "This piano is truly one of the most durable instruments I have ever encountered. It gets played most days by at least three different pianists and is regularly moved around the stage, which would affect many other pianos. I tend to be very fussy about the piano’s action and sound, so we normally have it tuned and regulated every day to ensure it's in absolutely top condition. I have a routine with the piano; when I arrive at the club each day I generally practice some classical pieces – especially Bach and Rachmaninov – this helps me to really assess and appreciate the instrument’s sonic range. I recorded my 'Swing the Club' trio album on an S6 – it records brilliantly. On the record it actually sounds like a much bigger piano, the bass is so strong. More recently we also recorded the new 'Ronnie Scott's Allstars' album on this one."
The Ronnie's S6 seems to be acquiring a legendary status amongst pianists and fans, the latest model having been played by thousands of discerning and highly demanding artists. The list of recent players reads like a who's who of the jazz world and includes Jamie Cullum, Jason Rebello, Gwilym Simcock, Gareth Williams, Georgie Fame, Robert Glasper, Neil Cowley, Hiromi, John Taylor, Julian Joseph and even Wynton Marsalis.
James sums up his thoughts and gives an insight into his day-to-day work at the club, "As the club's Artistic Director I often have to deal with a wide range of piano demands from pianists. This is normal because, curiously, many venues still do not have good pianos. In London we are lucky, both Ronnie's and the 606 have S6s. Quite often we receive advance notification of technical requirements; some artists request Steinway, although they generally end up on the S6 as it's so good. If they want something bigger we’ll put in the new Yamaha CFX. When Michel Legrand performed here last year he loved the CFX so much he said it was an 'inspirational' instrument and that he might compose another masterpiece on it."