Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra

Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra: Bournemouth International Centre (16th December, 2016)

Nearly 30 years after it first hit the road, Jools Holland’s mighty Rhythm and Blues Orchestra continues to blaze its inimitable musical trail across the nation.

After playing Southampton’s Mayflower at the end of last month the 18 piece big band was back on the south coast last night with a stunning performance in Bournemouth.

It found bandleader and virtuoso pianist Jools leading his hand-picked troupe of musicians through a set that celebrated rock, jazz, blues, big-band, ska, gospel, soul and R&B.

What a band! Each and every member is a top soloist and they all get their moment in the spotlight.  In addition to Holland on piano there’s long serving drummer Gilson Lavis, Dave Swift on bass, Mark Flanagan on guitar, Jools’ brother, Christopher Holland, on organ and a bank of trumpets, trombones and saxophones.

The music inevitably veers towards the derivative but is also unique with superb  arrangements and wonderfully inventive takes on numbers old and new. There was even a Brian Eno Soundscape.

Jools took the opportunity to flag-up his new album ‘Piano’ which he pointed out was recorded on different instruments in many different location including a disused warehouse in Southampton.

High points of the evening included special guests Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson from The Selector whose high-energy performance had the audience on their feet and singing along to old Two Tone favourites like Too Much Pressure and On My Radio.

The Rhythm and Blues Orchestra , with its sensational brass section was seemingly running on rails - almost literally too as the Train to Skaville segued into Tuxedo Junction. There were brilliant vocals from Louise Marshall and a harmonica-toting Beth Rowley. 

The biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for boogie-woogie queen Ruby Turner. Possibly the greatest blues shouter in the country, she launched into  Let The Good Times Roll and brought the show to a magnificent finale with Peace in the Valley before it was time to say goodbye with a feelgood singalong encore ending with Turner. Marshall and Rowley singing  the Count Basie classic Alright, Okay, You Win.

Jeremy Miles

© Jeremy Miles 2022