Jools Holland has come a long way from playing in the East End docks as a teenage greaser to leading his rhythm and blues orchestra in the majestic surroundings of Castle Howard. Set against the dramatic landscape of one of England’s finest country houses with breath-taking views Castle Howard is familiar to many as the fictional "Brideshead", both in Granada Television’s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and a two-hour 2008 remake for cinema.
Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra took to the stage set against a backdrop of the Great Lake (resident Geese soaring high above like some RAF fly-past) with the house standing grandly beyond a sprawl of green lawn at the top of the hill. An ocean of cars parked artfully out of sight, people heavy laden carrying picnic baskets, chairs and tables, a man with a wheelbarrow full of Champagne, all ascended out of the meadow up to the gig.
Nothing ugly to contemplate here other than some bloated faces stuffing mouths full of picnic food and dodgy Prosecco fuelled Dad dancing and a radio announcer with a voice as grating as chalk on a blackboard. But none of this mattered – merriment prevailed.
The warm evening sun shone luminously as ominous clouds gathered in the West. Not wanting to spoil the occasion magically the rain stayed away. Against this setting we were treated to an evening feast of music and feel good spirit.
It is Jools passion for music that has made him a doyen of the music scene and a national treasure. The king of boogie woogie, brings energy and implausible music craft with an exuberant live performance of sheer genius. Holland’s relationship with the piano is empathic and inspired. He effortlessly tickled the ivories with a boyish smile and charm – As the great BB King said “I didn’t think anyone could play like that. Jools has got that left hand that never stops”
The Orchestra is brim full of amazing musicians including long-time colleague and drummer/percussionist extraordinaire Gilson Lavis who dazzled on drums throughout and performed a drum solo of such epic proportions it would have rattled the foundations of the old house. Guest vocalists Ruby Turner, Louise Marshall and Mabel Ray all performed brilliantly. Ruby Turner is the real deal with a voice bringing life and meaning to any song, be it a fast groove or passionate ballad.
Special guest Marc Almond danced onto the stage and delivered feisty renditions of Soft Cell classics Say Hello, Wave Goodbye and Tainted Love. Almond is a genuine Star – a consummate performer with a fine soulful voice – the songs really suited the swing and swagger of an orchestral arrangement.
It was a truly fabulous night at Castle HowardJools Holland