It feels as though in millennia to come, only two things will be certain: the ants will still be walking the Earth, and Jools Holland will be back to play a gig at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival. That’s an exaggeration, but his continued appearances are as like-clockwork as the fact that his show is still devised with such precision that there’s no way his audience can be left unhappy.
Jools Holland & His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra ****
Pianist Holland and his 15-strong accompaniment (11 of whom were an orchestra of horn players) galloped through blues, soul, pop and Holland’s beloved boogie-woogie with an energy and versatility that belied the safeness of the ground which the Later… show’s host enjoys. There was one very pleasant surprise, however, especially for anyone who hadn’t read advance publicity for this tour: with Chris Difford appearing for a four-song suite including Take Me, I’m Yours and Cool For Cats, and Gilson Lavis already installed as Holland’s thundering drummer, three-fifths of Squeeze were briefly reunited onstage.
Elsewhere, the set very much traded on faithful – if enthusiastically played – standards, coupled with a few of Holland’s own compositions. With vocal backing from Beth Rowley and Louise Marshall where appropriate, they rattled through Leadbelly’s Midnight Special, Louis Armstrong’s The Back O’Town Blues and an upbeat arrangement of French standard Plaisir D’amour (“a song from the ‘80s… the 1780s,” joked Holland), and were joined towards the end by the dazzlingly powerful Ruby Turner, who took the lead on Let the Good Times Roll and Peggy Lee’s Alright, Okay, You Win, among others. If it was in any way predictable, it was also predictably crowd-pleasing.