Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra

Brighton Centre

Saturday, December 14

JUST two weeks away from airing his famous new year’s hootenanny, Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra treated Brighton to an evening of jazz, swing, ska, and soul.

With musical genius that needs no introduction, Holland was superb from beginning to end, and the breathtaking two-hour set was studded by fantastic appearances by Louise Marshall, Ruby Turner, and Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson from The Selecter, who were celebrating the 40-year anniversary of two-tone.

Supporting was Jack Lukeman, equipped with a ukulele, guitar, a fairylight-covered accordion and a beautifully rich voice. His set was made up of a handful of original songs blended with Christmas tunes to get the crowd in the holiday spirit. Of particular note was his hypnotic a cappella rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Once on stage and after dropping his signature Boogie Woogie, Holland deployed his expertise in interacting with his audience, peppering humorous stories in with each musical piece, with one upbeat song Morris Dance dedicated to his dog, Morris, and others harking back to the very beginning of his journey with the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra when it was little more than a piano and drums in damp and seedy Brighton bars. This was lifelong friend and drum genius Gilson Lavis’ chance to showcase his skills with a breathless drum solo that was deserving of the roaring applause it inspired.

With every number peppered with fantastic solos from each member of the orchestra, there wasn’t a dull moment in the entire set. With clear passion and love for the craft, Holland was pitch-perfect in never allowing the show to become over-indulgent. The aim was clear: everyone was there to enjoy the music in its purest and simplest sense.

It was Ruby Turner that finally got a particularly inanimate audience on their feet with her huge stage presence and even bigger soul vocals, with show-stopping renditions of Morning, Noon & Night, and more.

To close the show, Pauline Black and Arthur Hendrickson kept feet stamping with a particularly timely round of Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think), successfully distracting everyone from the wild wind and rain that was waiting outside.

A truly unforgettable display of fantastic talent, Jools Holland is never one to miss.

Lois Zoppi