Review: Jools Holland, Playhouse Theatre

Jools Holland joined some  special guests onstage

Jools Holland joined some special guests onstage

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The grand finale of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival was always going to be a big deal. And who better to draw the crowds than Jools Holland along with his orchestra and some very special guests.

****

So it was odd that the opening act should be low-key to the point of being mundane. Steven Sproat may be the UK’s finest exponent of the ukulele, but a pop tune by Keane on that instrument, accompanied by a bongo player, is never going to be a hit for hi-energy boogie-woogie fans.

However, Jools Holland and his pals soon made up for that particular error of judgement, with the audience treated to a rich selection of blues, jazz, boogie-woogie and ska.

It was all delivered by consummate, professional – not to mention incredibly talented – musicians. A 12-piece horn section made up part of the 20 performers on stage who worked in perfect synchrony to produce a sound that filled the venue and rocked the roof.

Impressive enough, but while Holland played the part of ringmaster his hands were a blur as they flew across the keyboard, hitting more notes per second on his piano than had he simply flung it down a flight of stairs.

Besides the Boogie Blast there were plenty of slower classics, such as Elmore James’ Stranger Blues and Sam Brown’s Valentine Moon. Each brought sustained applause.

Yes, the guest stars were outstanding. American jazz vocal sensation, Gregory Porter, is a big man with a big voice. Ruby Turner brought the crowd to its feet with her remarkable vocal performance. But the real stars – besides Holland, who can whip the crowds into a frenzy with just a wave of his hand – was the orchestra. It was plain from the outset they were enjoying every minute of it all. Their infectious enthusiasm and energy spilled out, and gave the whole performance an extra vibe.

Little wonder then that there was a full standing ovation for what was a special show, and an equally special orchestra.