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REVIEW: Jools Holland, Kew the music, London

31 July 2014

Brothers Jools and Christopher Holland
Brothers Jools and Christopher HollandPhoto by David Tickle at 255 Photography © Helicon Mountain Ltd

Photo by David Tickle at 255 Photography © Helicon Mountain Ltd

Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra
Kew the music, Kew Gardens, London
18 July

‘The sun is going now so it’s time for some blues,’ calls Jools Holland from the stage outside Kew Palace, London. Picnickers abandon half-eaten sandwiches and get to their feet, as Holland picks out a plaintive melody.

Outdoor concerts in the UK are fraught with difficulties thanks to our ordinarily inclement weather. However, the organisers of Kew the Music – the five-day festival held at Kew Gardens, London – must have breathed a sigh of relief when the Met Office reports for July were revealed. The balmy evening set a jovial tone – despite Holland’s appeals to the contrary.

Holland – sometimes perched on a Jackson Pollock-styled stool, but frequently standing – plays a digital piano (a Yamaha GT7 GranTouch, in case anyone’s interested). Ever the showman, he presents from the keyboard, slipping easily between speech and song. An eclectic mix of vocalists appear – soul songstress Ruby Turner impresses, former Soft Cell artist Marc Almond does not – but it is fellow pianist and sibling Christopher Holland who is his most interesting collaborator. The Hollands squeeze together at the grand piano, flitting between three- and four-hand improvisations. Their timing is unerring, the percussive melodies transfixing.

Holland senior goes solo again, this time breaking into boogie-woogie. Talking over that famous left-hand beat, he doesn’t miss a note. Sheet music is strewn across the top of the piano, along with a discarded tambourine. He closes, as always, with Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later than You Think) bolstered by his excellent orchestra.

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