VICE President and a firm favourite of the Eisteddfod, Jools Holland will make a welcome return to Llangollen this summer with his legendary Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.

Featuring former Squeeze drummer, Gilson Lavis, alongside guest vocalists Ruby Turner and Louise Marshall, plus a special guest still to be confirmed, it’s set to be a non-stop toe tapping extravaganza of jazz, blues and swing to open the Eisteddfod's 2019 concert series.

From playing pubs in the East End docks as a teenage greaser, to leading his own big band, presenting 53 series of Later... and selling millions of records with new wavers Squeeze, it is his passion for music that has made the 61-year-old into a doyen of the modern music scene.

"There's an old expression that says if you want to get something done, give it to somebody busy to do it," says Holland. "I've always seemed to stay busy even when I mean to not be busy. But I'm very lucky, because I enjoy what I do. The job of being me is the job I really enjoy doing. I like touring, I like playing. The best bit of touring is the fact that you get on stage, and of course that's the shortest part of it. The longest part is travelling to where you're going. But I don't mind the travelling and seeing stuff. But the highlight is being on the stage, and hearing different people in my orchestra, hearing the guests, being able to try and figure out the mystery that is playing the piano each day, and sometimes you feel as though you get a bit better, and sometimes you feel as if...for every five steps forward, you take four back, and you keep going on like that. So it's a lovely enigma to plug into all the time, really, the whole act of touring, and the whole act of playing."

At the age of 15, Holland was introduced to Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford; together they formed Squeeze, and shortly afterwards they were joined by Gilson Lavis who still drums with the pianist. Classic hits like Up The Junction and Cool For Cats gave Squeeze meteoric success and their popularity rapidly extended to America, where their tours included performances at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

He says: "I'm very proud of my British pop music history and credentials, because you know, I started off with Squeeze, as did Gilson of course, the drummer in Squeeze, who's there, who gets better and better, and Chris, who I've written with quite a lot, different things over the years, but also he comes as a guest with us, and it's great when he's with us, because there's something very, what's the word for it - very laddish that comes out when we play with it. There's a great life that comes out, so it's always a joy."

In 1987, Holland formed The Jools Holland Big Band which has gradually metamorphosed into the current 19-piece Jools Holland and His Rhythm & Blues Orchestra, which consists of pianist, organist, drummer, three female vocals, guitar, bass guitar, two tenor saxophones, two alto saxophones, baritone saxophone, three trumpets, and three trombones.

"It is the same configuration that people like Count Basie or Duke Ellington would have had," he says. "So it's a big configuration, a very dynamic configuration, because when all the horns play, it's like a really exciting thing, and we've got, as well as playing our own modern things, we've got things from the past just boogied up a little bit more, like Lionel Hampton stuff or ska music that kind of gets you wanting to dance, and I think it sounds magnified by putting it through a big band, which outside is just even better."

As well as formidable live performances, Holland has maintained a prolific recording career since signing to Warner Music in 1996, which includes the multimillion selling Jools Holland and Friends series. Notable ‘friends’ have included Sting, Chrissie Hynde, George Harrison, Norah Jones, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Bono, Joe Strummer, KT Tunstall, Robert Plant, Smokey Robinson, Sugababes, Ringo Starr, Peter Gabriel, Solomon Burke, and many more.

"I think sometimes it's time to look in the rear view mirror and take stock, because there are some fantastic moments," he continues. "I've been very lucky, both either on record where we recorded with George Harrison, or written with Dr John, or Dionne Warwick covered a song that Sam Brown and I wrote. I can't believe it sometimes, all this stuff that's happened. Then also sometimes when we play on 'Later' or on the 'Hootenanny' and people play with us, you get some amazing thing that happens sometimes. The atmosphere is just great when it goes. Then sometimes it's just being in the dressing room doing a warm-up with somebody at the piano. I remember being in the dressing room with Amy Winehouse and her just singing something at the piano. And you're thinking 'Wow, that's amazing.' So it doesn't really matter whether it's live on the television, on a record or in a dressing room, or at home or at a gig, you're plugging into the same thing and it's an amazing thing, I'm so fortunate to have plugged into it and been very moved by it. The more you listen to stuff and the more you play, the more you can play and listen to stuff, yet the more mysterious it all becomes, and that's the great thing about it, you can never figure it out."

Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra play Llangollen on Monday July 1, 2019. Tickets £42 / £35

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