Jools Holland + His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra
Jools Holland’s Big Band Rhythm + Blues
Jools Holland cut his teeth on this stuff early on, picking up boogie woogie piano at the age of eight and co-founding Squeeze by the time he was 15. These days, apart from TV and radio appearances (you can catch his show on BBC America), he tours with the 14-piece Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, often playing to packed houses.
This particular album consists of guest turns from a veritable who’s who of vocalists and musicians. Joe Strummer, Paul Weller, Mark Knopfler, Van Morrison, Steve Winwood, and Taj Mahal. Sting, Chris Difford (Squeeze), John Cale, Suggs (Madness). George Harrison, his last recorded appearance. Jamiroquai, Paul Carrack, and there’s still more.
Songs are a healthy mix of standards and original compositions, though all fall very neatly in the area of big band rhythm and blues (imagine that). In a lot of cases, a single guest musician is no match for a dozen-plus seasoned big band rhythm and blues musicians, but there are shining moments where the two reach a fair compromise, like Suggs’ “Oranges and Lemons Again” and Marc Almond’s “Say Hello, Wave Goodbye.” Jamiroquai’s ska-like take on “I’m in the Mood For Love” is light but still enjoyable. A couple of times — notably Dr. John’s “The Hand That Changed Its Mind” — the band seems left in the dust as Holland and guest trade licks.
This isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but it is impressive and extremely well-produced. And a whole lot of fun.