Described as the best-connected man in British pop music, pianist, bandleader and presenter Jools Holland rubbed shoulders with virtually every major artist since the 1970s during a prolific and eclectic career which ... Read more »
Described as the best-connected man in British pop music, pianist, bandleader and presenter Jools Holland rubbed shoulders with virtually every major artist since the 1970s during a prolific and eclectic career which took in everything from anarchic teatime TV to big-band swing. A founding member of Squeeze, Holland's rollicking piano-playing style was an integral part of the new wave veterans' first three albums. But Holland's talents truly flourished when he left the group to pursue his passion for boogie-woogie, jazz and old-school R&B, most notably with a series of star-studded albums recorded with his very own Rhythm & Blues Orchestra. Holland was also a permanent fixture on U.K. television starting in the early 1980s, co-hosting the chaotic but hugely influential "The Tube" (Channel 4 1982-87) and acting as the national gatekeeper of new music on late-night institution, "Later With ... Jools Holland" (BBC 1992-).
Born in Blackheath, London in 1958, Julian Holland was first taught his instrument of choice by his uncle aged eight, and by his mid-teens was performing in various clubs in the capital's East End. In 1974, he joined Glenn Tilbrook, Chris Difford and Paul Gunn in the original line-up of Squeeze and while the band were busy honing their distinctly British pop sound, also worked as a session musician for punk pioneers Wayne County & The Electric Chairs. Holland contributed to Squeeze's first three studio efforts (Squeeze, Cool For Cats, Argybargy), but any notable moments in the spotlight were restricted to album tracks and B-sides. Two years after releasing his debut, a 7" E.P. named Boogie Woogie '78, Holland left the critically acclaimed and incipiently famous band to embark on a solo career.
In 1981, he formed Jools Holland and his Millionaires, a short-lived sextet which disbanded following the commercial failure of their eponymous debut album the same year. Holland subsequently played on The The's Soul Mining and released a U.S.-only boogie-woogie collection entitled Jools Holland Meets Rock-a-Boogie Billy. But it was as a TV presenter where Holland became something of a household name, his dry sense of humor and passion for music providing a neat contrast to the flirtatious interview techniques of Paula Yates on the seminal "The Tube" (Channel 4 1982-87). The teatime show, which gave Madonna her British TV debut and was instrumental in launching Frankie Goes To Hollywood's career, was considered a ground-breaking showcase for emerging artists and ran for five years before an F-word, accidentally uttered by Holland in a live trailer aired during peak children's viewing time, kick-started its swift demise.
Having rejoined Squeeze for their 1985 reunion album Cosi Fran Tutti Frutti, Holland spent the remainder of the decade alternating between his sideman role in the group and his solo ventures, playing Madison Square Garden and scoring a U.S. Top 20 hit, "Hourglass," with Tilbrook and co. as well as founding Jools Holland's Rhythm & Blues Orchestra and hosting a live-in-the-studio TV show with saxophonist David Sanborn, "Sunday Night Music" (NBC 1988-1990). But following 1987's Babylon and On and 1989's Frank, Holland left Squeeze on amicable terms for the second time in order to focus entirely on his own career. In 1991 he regrouped all of the ex-Millionaires to record World Of His Own and followed it up with 1992's swing-themed The Full Complement and the instrumental The A To Z Geographer's Guide To The Piano.
However, it was a second major foray into television, "Later With ... Jools Holland" (BBC2 1992- ), that would prove to be arguably Holland's most significant contribution to the music industry. Regarded as something of a national institution in the U.K., the late night show -- which features a variety of artists performing in front of both each other and a small intimate audience -- saw Holland tinkle the ivories alongside a whole host of superstars since its debut including Paul McCartney, David Bowie, and Dusty Springfield. But it also became renowned for giving several largely ignored genres mainstream exposure and helping to launch the careers of numerous artists including Adele, KT Tunstall and Seasick Steve, as well as spawning a series of hit compilations, DVDs and an annual New Year's Eve show entitled "Jools Holland's Hootenanny" (BBC 1993- ).
Holland didn't neglect his own musical ambitions though and after returning to his session musician roots on records by the likes of Dr. John, Marcella Detroit and Eddi Reader, he began to tour constantly with his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, performing an average of two big band shows a week. He also attracted an array of big-name guest vocalists for his own studio efforts including Paul Weller on 1997's Lift The Lid, Robbie Coltrane on 1999's Sunset Over London and Jamiroquai's Jay Kay on 2000's Hop The Wag. In 2001, he scored his first ever U.K. Top 10 entry with Small World Big Band, another star-studded affair notable for featuring George Harrison's last ever performance, whose success inspired a further two sequels. While after receiving an OBE for services to the music industry in 2003, Holland teamed up with Wales' biggest pop export with a collaborative LP simply named Tom Jones & Jools Holland.
Holland then returned to his successful multi-artist formula for ventures into blues/ska (Swinging The Blues, Dancing The Ska) and country (Moving Out To The Country) before recording a series of boogie-woogie originals with soul legend Ruby Turner on 2008's The Informer. After adding radio host to his list of many talents by landing a weekly show on the U.K.'s most listened-to station, Radio 2, Holland then reunited with his Orchestra for 2010's Rockinghorse and two years later released The Golden Age Of Song, a collection of Great American Songbook standards which also saw him celebrate the 20th anniversary of "Later With ... Jools Holland" (BBC2, 1992-) by including several of the most popular live recordings from the hit show.