east end boys

Chet Baker by John Claridge

John Claridge’s best photograph - From 1976 to 1989, I lived in a flat on Frith Street in Soho, above Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. I went to sleep every night listening to jazz, which is alright if you like jazz, and I did. Ronnie was from east London, like me, and there were a lot of East End boys running the club. So I’d go down for a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and have a rabbit – it was like being at home.

Chet Baker came in one night in 1986, and I asked him if I could do a couple of shots before he went on. I said: “I’ve got to tell you, when I was 13, I bought the Chet Baker Quartet record with Winter Wonderland on it. Russ Freeman was the pianist … ” And Chet said, “Yeah, he was, in 1953.” He just stopped and stared, going back through his memory. And that’s when I took the picture. Then he went downstairs and did his set. He played beautifully, considering he’d lost a lot of his teeth in the gutter – the emotion and passion still came through.

It’s a haunting image, but people adore it, because that life comes through. That Soho is dying out now, turning into Disneyland. When you have corporate greed come in, everything becomes the same, and I find that very boring. I don’t want the same coffee around the world.

Lady Rozelle as a Child. Marie-Louise Roosevelt Pierrepont (British, 1889-1984. Oil on canvas. The Pierrepont Collection.

Lady Rozelle. perhaps reading a novel about the sea, is the daughter of the artist. Lady Rozelle Raynes devoted her life to the sea, writing a series of books charting her adventures as a wartime Wren stoker, a single-handed yachtswoman, and as the founder of a one-woman mission to take East End boys in care sailing in the London docks.