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Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:09 pm
by Gordon Neill
I feel I ought to like Jools Holland more than I do. His ‘Later’ programme can be interesting, his repertoire suggests he has a good record collection and, as far as I know, he’s a decent bloke. But he can come across as a bit smug and I find his brand of ‘boogie-woogie’ to be mechanical and uninspiring. If he ever does a version of Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player, it might just tempt me. I didn’t pay much attention to who was in his Orchestra. But it was enough to know that it featured an ex-Spice Girl. So, you know, nuff said. But my wife was keen and I was determined to put on a brave face and see it through.

My fears were confirmed as Jools and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra opened up with a romp through some anonymous ‘boogie woogie’ instrumental. It quickly became clear that a pattern was being set. Jools would cheerfully hammer away at his piano, grinning at the audience every now and then to let them know when to clap. As far as I could tell, he hit all the right notes and in roughly the right order. But he has all the feeling of a typist on a speed trial. And every song would feature a solo by one of the Orchestra members. And every solo would be preceded by a ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ from a beaming Jools. I started to count how many were in the Orchestra and feared it was going to be a long night. Saxaphones, trumpets, a ‘boogie-woogie’ guitarist – they were all getting to do their party piece. I even started to fear that the drummer would get to ‘play’ something. As it went on (and on), I started to think that Jools has somehow become the new George Melly. Instead of trad-jazz, it’s trad-‘boogie-woogie’. But it’s much the same patter and master of ceremonies stuff that covers over a thin talent.

And then things started to improve. The first of the guest singers was wheeled on. She was young, she looked a little nervous, and she appeared to be wearing a frock made from mum’s old curtains. But she could sing. She was only allowed two songs and she had to squeeze in between a lot of needless noodling from Jools. But she could sing. I only wish I could remember her name. All too soon, she was gone and we were returned to Jools mugging his way through another few ‘boogie-woogie’ tunes. Joe Turner was mentioned, but I couldn’t tell what the song was. Honeysuckle Rose was hammered to within an inch of its life. There was much grinning and band solos. Time slowed.

And then it happened again. Another guest singer appeared, Louise Marshall. Again, she was only allowed a couple of songs. Again, she obediently fitted in between all those piano notes. But, again, she was fantastic. This seemed to be a promising pattern. Even Jools gamely tackling some more ‘boogie-woogie’, followed by the inevitable drum solo, couldn’t dampen my sprits.

Melanie C, or the Artist-Previously-Known-As-Sporty-Spice (TAPKASS) was next up. She was a revelation. She’s aged well, looking far better than I remember her from her Spice Girl days. And she has a stage presence. While she didn’t actually shoot Jools, it was clear that she was the singer, he was the support. And, surprise surprise, TAPKASS has a great voice. She was like a hand grenade going off, covering the whole stage like shrapnel, and Jools ducking for cover. Her belting versions of ‘I Got No, I Got Life’ and Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Wish’ were fantastic, far better than the originals as far as I’m concerned. Even Jools and his Orchestra started to sound pretty good.

And then things got even better. The last singer was Ruby Turner. I hadn’t noticed her name on the bill. I’d almost forgotten that Ruby existed. I bought her first album …um… 30-ish years ago. I remembered it as being agreeable, but it couldn’t compete with my discoveries of Aretha and Etta. She used to have a good voice. But it’s now become great. She was like a nuclear bomb going off. I don’t think I have ever heard a more powerful singer. But she always seemed to have something under the bonnet, always mixing power with control. By now Jools and his Orchestra were sounding like the best band I’ve ever heard. Possibly because it was hard to hear them, as Ruby emptied her lungs into the hall. There wasn’t much variety. Ruby seems to have two specialties: fast & loud and even faster & louder. But I wasn’t complaining.

By the end, I’d warmed to Jools. I still find his stage persona to be irritating. And he’s not much of a singer or piano player. But he does seem to have a genuine enthusiasm for the music. And he does help nurture new singing talent or revive flagging careers. For letting me hear TAPKASS or Ruby Turner, I’d forgive Jools almost everything. If I had to shoot him, I’d feel bad about it.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 1:36 pm
by Adam Blake
Great review, Gordon. You should take it up professionally. Jools presents boogie-woogie for people who don't really know very much about it but know that they like it. This creates an enormous wave of snobbery from those who DO know very much about it. But it's a formula that's guaranteed to be successful in virtually every genre: Jamie Cullum in jazz, any number of pretty bints in cocktail dresses singing popular arias, The Police did it with pop reggae, Mick Hucknall or Paul Young did it with pop soul, U2 with crap stadium rock, Eric Clapton does it with blues etc etc etc...

For what it's worth, I think Jools is a very good pianist but he has no discernible feel. As a presenter he has been playing off the same riff for over 30 years. Worked for Bruce Forsyth.

Sporty Spice was often referred to as The Talented One so no surprises that she still is. Nice to know that Ruby Turner is still fab.

Meanwhile, here's something to clean your palette: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX8TPanPKzU

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 3:48 pm
by AndyM
Gordon Neill wrote: And, surprise surprise, TAPKASS has a great voice.



She always has had, for those prepared to look beyond their prejudices against her genres of choice. Exhibit A:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M97ZbyynRQ

Easy to dislike the production & the general aura of bombast, but the singing is wonderful.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2014 5:21 pm
by Garth Cartwright
Brilliant review! Pleased you sat through Jools rather than me. I also owned that first Ruby album and recall it being pleasant if suffering a very 80s production. Never seen any of the Spices perform but, yes, people I trust say she was the one with the voice so it's good to know she is making good use of it.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 4:00 am
by will vine
Jools Holland is living the dream. An excellent piano player surrounded by great musicians. His crime is that his is a revivalist band having, I imagine, huge fun recreating whatever they please from the past,well nearly a century of music. Like Bill Wyman he is able to call upon very talented people and I suspect that he revels in bringing together old and new performers from different musical areas, exactly the thing that his Later show does. He gets to be the embodiment of musical tolerance. An ambassador for the blues. He gets to bring people together to party. My only problem with him is that increasingly he seems only able to do this in the rarified surroundings of stately homes and expensive, firework-lit, summer specials.....Oh! and also, like that other, equally unauthentic, boogie woogie pianist Hugh Lawrie you don't really want to hear him sing.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:45 am
by Adam Blake
Jools is as ruthless as pretty much any other entertainer who has maintained a position at the top of their field for as long as he has. I have heard enough gossip from crew persons over the years to convince me of that.

From my own experience: Jools's manager once offered a band I was playing in a gig supporting him at a college somewhere. We were briefly signed to Jool's label - Beautiful Records - and we would have been promoting his label's first release. We were an eight piece band and he offered us £50. It would have been better, far better, if he had said: "Listen, there's no money but you can do it if you want."

We didn't do the gig.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:50 am
by Rob Hall
On the plus side, he's kept Rico Rodriguez in work for a good number of years.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:53 am
by Adam Blake
Yes, that is nice. I am sure he enjoyed the reflected kudos it gave him too. What with Rico being one of the real guys and all.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:55 am
by Adam Blake
Actually Rob, I wanted to get rid of these posts. I am not very fond of Jools and he brings out the worst in me. But I can't seem to delete them. Oh well...

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 11:22 am
by Rob Hall
You can't delete a post after someone has replied to it, or posted a further addition to the thread. What you can do, if you feel sufficiently strongly about it, is you can go back and edit your post, remove any offending remark and add an explanation - possibly something along the lines of "...edited after further consideration.." or something like that.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 11:38 am
by Garth Cartwright
Don't deleter your posts, Adam. You make valid points without malice. And Jools is extremely wealthy and married to the landed gentry so I think he can handle a little criticism.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:09 pm
by Adam Blake
Thank you, Garth. It's difficult, though, to separate out professional jealousy from criticism of what you consider to be shabby behaviour. I've met Jools a few times, and he seems like a perfectly decent bloke to me. Typical musician. But then you hear these stories and you measure the enormous success against the mediocre talent and you start to get a little bitter. I try to rule that out of my everyday - not for fear of upsetting him, but for fear of becoming the kind of person I don't want to be.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:48 pm
by Jamie Renton
I don't think that anything you've written comes across as bitter Adam, But if you feel anything came from a bitter place, perhaps you could edit your posts, replacing the remarks in question with links to clips of Mead Lux Lewis, Count Basie and the like.

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 12:54 pm
by Adam Blake
Cheers, Jamie! Genuine "laugh out loud".

Re: Jools Holland and his rhythm & blues orchestra

PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2014 1:08 pm
by alister prince
Hey Adam, you bitter? Mild I'd say.
Aly