Boogie-woogie remains Jools Holland’s major passion

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THE Tube. Later With... and Hootenanny - Jools Holland has seldom been out of the spotlight since forming Squeeze back in 1974 and scoring his first hit with the seminal Cool For Cats.

On Sunday he rolls into town with his big-band for a night of boogie woogie jazz and blues at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

The 54-year-old can’t hide his enthusiasm. “There’s a documentary being made about us at the moment. The man making it has been asking each of us how many people are in the big band. Nobody is quite sure. They all know it is somewhere between 17 and 22 but can’t quite work out exactly how many. I’m the same,” he laughs.

“It’s a bit like those standing stones you find around the country, the ones where, every time you count them, they add up to a different number. It’s a bit like that with us.”

The picture supplied for the gig suggests 19 is the correct number including Holland who adds, “What I do know is that we have five saxophones, four trombones, which, of course, include Rico Rodriguez the Jamaican legend, three trumpets, a bass drum, guitar, organ, piano and percussion.

“The drummer is Gilson Lavis, who used to be in Squeeze with me and on top of all of that, we have a cavalcade of guests including Rosie May, Louise Marshall and Ruby Turner, the unbelievable fire and rain of gospel and blues music all mashed up together. She is also noted as the boogie-woogie queen. So royalty will be visiting.

“And as if that wasn’t enough, we also have a special guest Gregory Porter, one of the most amazing new jazz voices.”

Holland’s big band has been doing the rounds for nearly two decades now - not that he has allowed it to distract him from his television career.

It was in 1982 that he became one of the faces of Channel 4’s ground-breaking music show The Tube and he has never looked back.

“The Tube started 30 years ago this November,” he says. “Recently, I went to Newcastle, to the Tyne-Tees studio where it was filmed. It was all rubble, like something from Planet of the Apes.”

He reflects, “The Tube turned me into a household name and changed a lot of things. Until then, music shows had either been a bit poppy or a bit earnest. The Tube made them a bit more couldn’t-care-less. Whether it was all good or bad, I don’t know. But there it was.

“I actually stopped playing live for a couple of years around that time and that made me not very happy, so I went out on the road again. Squeeze reformed for a little bit but by the end of the 80s it was the beginning of my big band.”

It was here in Edinburgh that Holland and his big band cut their first record, a moment he still holds dear.

“I used to go up to the festival often. I’d stay for a week and play for a week. The first record with my big band, as it became, was called Live At The Queen’s Hall.”

Despite his on-screen success Holland has always been most at home sitting at his piano.

“I love doing the television things but I return to my natural habitat when on stage with my big band.”

And never more so that when he’s playing his beloved boogie-woogie.

“When I first heard my uncle playing it in my grandmother’s front room on a little piano that was charred from an air-raid 20 years earlier, I was eight.

“Suddenly, all the chaos of the universe became ordered. Boogie-woogie was a mystery. I became obsessed by it, still am. Even when you play it you can’t make it sound the same twice. It’s always different. Always something new. That is what I love about boogie-woogie.”

Jools Holland, Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, Sunday, 7.30pm, £33.50-£38.50,