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Arts / Tributes paid to ‘outstanding’ bassist who enjoyed jazz career after leaving isles

TRIBUTES have been paid to a highly respected bassist originally from Shetland who became a key fixture in jazz circles.

Ron Mathewson passed away last week in hospital in London, aged 76, after reportedly contracting Covid-19.

Ron Mathewson playing at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in 1989. Photo: Brian O’Connor

Born in Lerwick, he cut his teeth playing at dances before leaving the isles as a young man and forging a formidable career on the double bass.

Mathewson – who also played piano – performed or recorded with musicians such as Ronnie Scott, Stan Getz, The Rolling Stones’ Charlie Watts, Joe Henderson, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Joan Armatrading and Tubby Hayes.

He was a regular on the stage at the renowned Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London.

The jazz club said in a post on Facebook following his death that Mathewson was an “outstanding musician” with “superb fluidity” on the double bass.

In a tribute reported by London Jazz News, saxophonist Stan Sulzmann said Mathewson was a “real jazz player with great character and an individual voice, playing and living in the moment”.

“He was the one who had it all with such an intuitive and unrestrained talent,” Sulzmann said.

Prior to heading south, and during trips home, Mathewson played alongside musicians in the local circuit, including the legendary Peerie Willie Johnson among others.

Performing as a youngster at the TA Hall in Lerwick. Photo: Alan Young

One local musician who played with Mathewson was drummer Drew Robertson, who is now 90.

He said the bassist would always be up for a session when he returned home for a visit.

“He was an excellent player,” Robertson said. “He could turn his hand to anything.”

Robertson said playing alongside Mathewson allowed local musicians to enjoy a detour into a jazz – a genre not always at the forefront in Shetland.

Some of the sessions included performances at the Grand Hotel and the Excelsior pub, he said.

Mathewson was also the feature of a TV documentary, with clips included of the bassist performing with Robertson and Peerie Willie at the Grand at Up Helly Aa.