Skip to content

Jools Holland “Piano, Vocals and Drum Frenzy”at the Blue Note, February 3rd, 2018, Reviewed

Let me take you down, because I’m going to 1987, when I interviewed Jools Holland for Creem: “Laconic, easygoing, bored, a trifle indifferent. He’s the former co-presenter of The Tube,an English youth-pop-comedy TV program, seen occasionally on MTV. Suspended for six weeks after saying “groovy fucker” on the air (“the straw that broke the camel’s back”), The Tube was highly rated by critics, not highly rated in the Nielsens. Before the six weeks were over, the producer had quit and, after five years, The Tube was cancelled. Quote: “It was high profile but I only worked two days a week. A part-time job.”

Now let me speed dial you through 30 years: Jools left Squeeze, became the MC for BBC2’s music program  “Later With Jools Holland,” got an MBE, introduced the world to Amy Winehouse and Adele, formed  the 18-piece Jools Holland’s Rhythm and Blues Orchestra with former Squeeze drummer Gilson Lavis -an offshoot of Jools Holland’s Big Band -a two person affair with just piano and drums and returned to New York for a four night residency at the Blue Note as Big Band and at last night’s early show claimed, “They say you only play New York twice in your career: once on the way up, once on the way down…. It’s good to be back”. I was actually at the Squeeze gig on the way up at the Ritz, and preferred the one down last night.

Jools is a master MC, on the Blue Note stage with his piano taking care of about a quarter of the real estate (if he’d brought his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, the audience wouldn’t have fit), he was as charming as you could imagine, self-deprecating, witty, and so easy going you fell into his boogie woogie groove with ease. Out to push his latest album, 2017’s fine collaboration with Puerto Rico’s favorite son Jose Feliciano, As You See Me Now, the oddest thing about the evening was… well, first the lack of a bass player obviously, but also the setlist was weird. It made more sense to me to use featured singers sparingly, instead he gave the last six songs to boogie woogie singer Ruby Turner. Sure, I made note of her name, sure, I’d see her anytime, but also sure, Jools the MC sat down and handed over the reigns. Much smarter was surprise guest Jose Feliciano, who sang Holland’s bluesy boogie new perennial “Happy New Year” with a raspy jab.  For the encore Jose showed up again on a fine version of Ray Charles “Hit The Road Jack,” and it was just enough. The Gilson Lavis solo on a tremendous piece of boogie woogie was a fast thumper all over the high hat and bass drum, again: just enough. Jools, who must be considered one of the top boogie woogie players jazz pianists was tremendous, his English cool displaced on a particularly arduous break out that left him (and us) breathless. Mabel Ray and Louise Marshall, sang back up as necessary and were given three songs between them.

Though the evening’s high point was Ruby’s “Peace in the Valley” and any problems in her performance were far from musical, Jools needed to maintain the setlists integrity,  keeping steady, taking us through his career (which, lest we forget, included enough rock and roll to make sense of Jose’s Jerry Lee Lewis), instead he did something less useful.  Still, this was the real deal by a true master, it was a privileged to watch Jools hands pound from one end of the piano to the other in a rhythmic two for the price of one masterclass for a terrific 75 minute show.

Grade: B+



1 Comment

  1. Robert Nevin on February 5, 2018 at 3:43 pm

    Nice review, Iman!

Leave a Comment


Support Let Me Help Inc by shopping at

The Earliest Bird: Top New Recorded Release 1-27-23 – 2-2-23, Rosalia’s “LLYLM”) Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | January 27, 2023 |

her best since “Milionària”

Brief Encounters: New Albums 1-20-23 – 1-26-23 Reviewed

By Iman Lababedi | January 26, 2023 |

dip yourself deep in sonic hellaciousness and disquiet

Creem – America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, Reviewed Issue By Issue – December 1982 (Volume 14, Number 7)

By Steve Crawford | January 26, 2023 |

“If you’re black you have to play a certain type of music”

Willie Nelson Is Throwing The Best Birthday Party Ever

By Alyson Camus | January 26, 2023 |

“I can’t think of a better way to spend my 90th birthday”

Book Review: “Pink Floyd and The Dark Side of the Moon: 50 Years,” by Martin Popoff

By Steve Crawford | January 25, 2023 |

What better gift for a Baby Boomer loved one?

US Top Ten Singles Tracking 1-13-23 – 1-19-23

By Iman Lababedi | January 25, 2023 |

caught the world’s attention

Big Loud Rock With Levi Evans, Letdown. And Blame My Youth At Winston House, Sunday, January 22nd, 2023

By Alyson Camus | January 25, 2023 |

Levi could actually make us completely forget about his famous dad

Live Review: Daisy Jopling: “The Iridium” New York City January 13, 2023

By admin | January 24, 2023 |

an eloquence at its highest level

Don’t Miss Randy Edelman Saturday Night At Chelsea Table + Stage, January 28th, 2023

By admin | January 24, 2023 |

He will transport his audience

US Top Ten Albums Tracking 1-13-23 – 1-19-23

By Iman Lababedi | January 24, 2023 |

SZA starts aiming for the record books

Scroll To Top