Bournemouth International Centre (Saturday, December 8th 2012)
The irrepressible Jools Holland hit town with his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra at the weekend and let the good-times roll. Fronting this 20 strong band complete with an 11 piece horn section and three guest singers, Holland was in his element, combining the roles of virtuoso pianist and bandleader with seamless aplomb.
This is a band with a big smile on its face. Versatile, entertaining and sensationally good. Under Holland’s direction they play everything from blues to jazz and boogie woogie. A spot of big-band, a slew of reggae, a big fat dollop of soul and R&B, some scorching gospel and a generous helping of rock ‘n’ roll.
At the BIC they celebrated musical roots that veered from Elmore James to Count Basie and way beyond. There was Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea - dedicated to George Harrison - and of course the band’ signature tune Enjoy Yourself It’s Later Than You Think. The first, originally a hit for Cab Calloway, was picked up by Harrison for his final album. The second, recorded by everyone from Doris Day to Prince Buster, is now very much in the temporary custody of Jools and his band.
And what a band it is! Vocalists Ruby Turner, Louise Marshall and Rose Mae add immeasurably to the mix whether featuring or filling out the sound. Special guest this year was one-time Fine Young Cannibal Roland Gift (pictured left) whose powerful soulful voice reminded us what great songs FYC recorded. With the full might of the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra behind him he delivered spine-tingling performances of numbers like Suspicious Minds, Good Thing and Crushed.
This annual Jools Holland Christmas gig - a fixture on the BIC’s festive calendar for a decade or more - simply gets better and better. In part it is of course a showcase for Holland’s astonishing keyboard skills. A big close-up screen focuses on his flying fingers as he plays everything from Big Bill Broonzy to Bach.
But he’s a generous bandleader and each and every musician gets a chance to step into the spotlight including a stunning drum solo from long-serving musical collaborator Gilson Lavis who’s been playing with Holland since they were in Squeeze together way back in the seventies.