One of the best nights of the year in my little life has to be Jools Holland at the Royal Albert Hall in London. We get there each year courtesy of a mate of mine and it is just brilliant. Every time. Without fail.
Not only do you get the huge sound of Jools himself on piano, but also the most amazing array of musical talent you could hope to see. Three great trumpeters, four trombonists, five saxophonists enjoy their way through a beautiful noise. Gilson Lavis takes my breath away as probably the best drummer I have ever seen – his long solos bring the audience to their feet. Dave Swift is the coolest bass player ever. Mark Flanagan is the Scouse guitarist who makes playing the blues look easy. Chris Holland brings the organ alive with a never-intrusive finesse. The sound is huge and you can’t help but get up and dance. Even in a box.
And not only does Jools give a couple of hours of totally enjoyable and flawless entertainment, but he gives spotlight space to the wonderful voices of Louise Marshall and Ruby Turner (the Queen of Boogie-Woogie). They best their way through song after song with a joy and energy that has to be seen to be believed.
The other great thing is how Jools nurtures new talent and gives space for younger musicians to learn their trade and play to huge audiences they could never command for themselves at this stage of their career. Look where the wonderful rockabilly Imelda May is now. This time it was Rumer in support – great singer, lovely voice, but a bit samey…
However, it is the main guests who do the challenging stuff. In the past we’ve seen Paul Rodgers, Jimmy Cliff, Lulu, Marc Almond, Solomon Burke and other greats. This time it was Alison Moyet and she didn’t disappoint for a single second. No prima donna showmanship – just excellent music from excellent musicians at the top of their game.
Can it get any better than this? Well, try Rico Rodriguez doing a ska version of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. One of the creators of Jamaican ska, he doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks and just sings his way through. He gives another go in the first encore with the glorious:
Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think. Enjoy yourself while you’re still in the pink. As years go by as quickly as a wink, enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
(Which is parodied by one of the crew as ‘Endure this song, it’s longer than you think…’)
Jools tours most of the year. Go to the website. Book for a gig near you. You will not regret it. Whatever your taste in music, this is musicianship at its joyful best.