Jools Holland Flexes His Boogie Muscle

New LP, The Swing Album, highlights ex-Squeeze member's career with jazz orchestra.

When Jools Holland helped lay the framework for the pop group Squeeze in the late '70s, he never dreamed he would enter the new millennium as a working musician, let alone as a virtuoso in demand.

"When Squeeze started, we were all very confident, probably overly confident. So there was no question in our minds that we were going to be successful," Holland said. "[But] it's very good that I've managed to keep working" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

After recording more than 15 albums in the past three decades, including seven as the soul of Squeeze, it would seem Holland has been doing a bit more on the music scene than just surviving.

Since his amicable departure from Squeeze in 1990, Holland has dabbled in almost all media forms. Not only does he continue to play to sold-out crowds throughout the U.K. and Europe, but he also hosts his own variety series on the BBC, "Later With Jools Holland"; was hand-picked by the surviving Beatles in 1994 to conduct the interviews for the award-winning "Anthology" TV documentary series; and recently helped pen the critically acclaimed rock opus "The Rolling Stones: A Life on the Road."

With all that going on, one would think Holland is ready for a vacation. Think again — and get ready to boogie.

Hot on the heels of the release of Hop the Wag, Holland's first CD of new material in nearly two years, the dexterous musician and his ever-growing 18-piece ensemble, the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, have just released a 13-song compilation, aptly titled The Swing Album. The CD chronicles a romance with boogie music that began for Holland more than 15 years ago, when he and Squeeze drummer Gilson Lavis were performing as a two-piece ironically dubbed the Jools Holland Big Band.

"[The Swing Album] is a reintroduction of Jools Holland to America at his swingingest, at his liveliest," Holland explained. "None of our other records are nonstop boogie, but this is" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

In addition to a toe-tapping, brass-drenched cover of Count Basie's "Avenue C" (RealAudio excerpt), The Swing Album includes a ska-inspired rendition of "I'm in a Dancing Mood" (RealAudio excerpt) and a reworked live version of "Dr. Jazz" (RealAudio excerpt), a song Holland wrote while touring with Squeeze in New Orleans in the late '70s, though it did not appear on an album until Squeeze's 1989 LP, Frank.

Holland attributes his orchestra's prolificacy and freshness to a nearly nonstop touring regimen that includes playing scores of live shows of their own as well as backing up other musicians, such as BB King, Dr. John and Eric Clapton.

"The reason I play a lot is because I enjoy it," he said. "I wouldn't do it if I didn't really enjoy it, but I wouldn't do it if it was the same [every night]. We're always learning new things.

"I think it's the most important thing to change it all the time," he added. "I feel that so long as I'm stimulated and excited with what's going on, the audience can be stimulated and excited by what's going on" (RealAudio excerpt of interview).

Jools Holland and the Rhythm & Blues Orchestra have just honed dates for a nine-month tour of the U.K. that will climax with their annual New Year's Eve broadcast on the BBC. His late-night show, "Later With Jools Holland," has also been renewed for another six-week season and can now be seen Stateside on BBC America.

For everything Jools, including tour dates and information on his BBC broadcast, visit Holland's official Web site as well as www.bbc.co.uk/later/.

Track listing for The Swing Album:

  • "T Bag Scuffle"

  • "Well Alright"

  • "Skin the Cat"

  • "I'm in a Dancing Mood"

  • "Avenue C"

  • "Dr. Jazz"

  • "Pauly's Birthday Boogie"

  • "Wang Dang Doodle"

  • "Ghost at My Door"

  • "Don't Need No Job"

  • "Travelling Blues"

  • "13 Bar Boogie 'n' B Natural"

  • "Jump for Joy"