Buxton, Scarborough, Perth and Middlesbrough, May 2019

Jools Holland and His Rhythm And Blues Orchestra’s 2019 tour rolled across the North of England in May and, in Jools’ inimitable way, he introduced his sell-out audiences to friends old and new.

Supporting the tour for dates in Buxton (Opera House), Scarborough (The Spa), Perth (Concert Hall) and Middlesbrough Town Hall was Mark Kingswood making his first appearances in Britain on the big stage.

While Mark has been winning legions of fans in Canada and the US, he remains largely unknown here in his homeland. Supporting Jools Holland was the ideal showcase for Mark’s brand of swing, a relaxed style yet delivering a kick with some punchy vocals.

Mark opened with Velvet Touch, a smooth track from his debut album followed by the self explanatory I’ve Got A Thing For Swing. Even with just a small 4-piece backing band, this lively number warmed the audience to Mark’s style of swing, shunning The Great American Songbook in favour of refreshingly original songs.

Introducing Dancing On A Monday, Mark recalled how he went busking, on Black Monday in January, to put a smile on the faces of the London commuters. This salsa tune is guaranteed to put a smile on any face while the title track of his album, Strong, is a song with a powerful message and the perfect vehicle to show the power, and the subtlety, in Mark’s range.

Of course, it’s always good to leave the audience with something familiar and Mark paid tribute George Michael’s influence on his career. “George was the master of everything he tried,” said Mark, “pop, big band, swing, orchestral, soul, anything that he put his hand to.” For his closing song Mark showed his delicate side with a beautiful version of George’s One More Try. Mark is sure to have won many new fans for, while the set was short, it showed that he has much to offer across a range of musical styles.

Jools Holland’s show has a party atmosphere and is all about fun and highlighting the talents of the many fine musicians he has gathered into his Rhythm And Blues Orchestra. Opening his set with a good old slice of Bumble Boogie, his brother Christopher then came down from his own keyboard at the rear of the stage to duet with Jools on the high notes for Grand Hotel.

As the evening progresses, through a Ska instrumental version of Yeah Yeah and the bluesy So Long, every member of the band steps forward for a spell in the spotlight. First of the backing vocalists taking centre stage is Mabel Ray to sing Today’s The Day We’re Gonna Be Romantic.

Jools’ banter with the audience is natural and relaxed and he describes the occasion as “not us up here and you down there but all as a oneness!” He proceeds to introduce, at length, his next guest as someone he has worked with for many years, his trusty old piano! Alone on the stage, with just long-time ally Gilson Lavis on drums for company, Jools plays Dr John’s delightful tribute to his mother Dorothy which slides seamlessly into Dr Jazz. At this point Jools also leaves the stage as the spotlight falls on Gilson for his drum solo spot.

Louise Russell is the second of the backing vocalists who steps up to deliver a Sweet Country Love Song and the gutsy Roll, Lady Roll.

Also on the guest list for these Northern dates is The Selecter. It’s great to see Pauline Black and Arthur ‘Gaps’ Hendrickson in fine form celebrating, as Pauline points out, the 40th anniversary of Two Tone. The Selecter’s short set concludes on a high note with their popular Two Tone anthem On My Radio.

By now the whole audience are on their feet and dancing in the aisles as Jools introduced his final guest, the one and only Ruby Turner for a set including Come On, Sit Down, Talk About The Old Times. My, oh my, Jools sure knows how to throw a party!