The Swing Album

Jools Holland

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The Swing Album Review

by Hal Horowitz

Although it's impossible to find a reference to it anywhere in the liner notes or on the cover, this is not newly recorded music, but a compilation of 13 tracks from six albums released only in Europe, where ex-Squeeze keyboardist Jools Holland is a major attraction and TV host. Best known for his nimble boogie-woogie piano style, this disc shows how easily Holland and his 17-piece big band (which includes a 12-piece horn section) adapts to swing, rockabilly, New Orleans honky tonk, blues (a rollicking take on Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle"), and even ska (Delroy Wilson's "I'm in a Dancing Mood," complete with toasting). Remarkably, these cross-genre excursions -- originally spread over six albums and almost ten years -- flow together particularly well, with Holland's reedy but effervescent voice adding enthusiasm and a focal point. Clearly this is the sound of a group having a blast, reinterpreting classics like Lightnin' Hopkins' "Don't Need No Job" and Count Basie's "Avenue C" in ways the original artists would never have imagined, and the band's enjoying every minute of it. The horns are surprisingly and thankfully restrained, but when they wail, it's a sizzling big-band blowout. Less rocking, yet more rollicking and jazz-oriented than Brian Setzer's similar approach, Holland's insistent piano pounding stays at the core of this upbeat music. A well-compiled party disc, this is a frustratingly short collection since there is a half hour of unused space that could easily have been filled with other tracks from the six albums this was created from. Still, The Swing Album is a three-quarter-hour, non-stop romp through the big-band heart of Holland, and an extremely entertaining, and infectious, listening experience.

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