Pop Review: Crown Jools

Jools Holland

St David's Hall, Cardiff

has made a career of not quite being able to melt into the background. Others, notably one of his oldest friends, Paula Yates, have undertaken violent, doomed love affairs with fame, but Holland's ongoing game of footsy with the limelight seems to have made him a perennially appealing figure. Furthermore it seems that his ubiquity has delivered that rare combination, quality and quantity.

Be it Squeeze, the New Wave Uncles of Britpop - with whom he notched up early Eighties classics "Up the Junction" and "Cool for Cats" - or his seminal Nineties music showcase, Later, Holland has been happy to let those around him draw on his deadpan allure. Chris Evans is but one of many openly to aspire to the south Londoner's arch emulation of Alfie-era Michael Caine. In his unimpeachable Englishness, it seems that Holland is fast becoming a national institution and a worthy pop successor to Alan Bennett - the Spice Girls are reportedly shelling out to make sure Holland pops up in their upcoming film and Paul Weller had Holland rattling the ivories on his last LP Heavy Soul.

Nevertheless, we often need reminding that Holland is a seasoned R&B pianist who loves nothing more than playing live. And yet it seems appropriate that Holland the performer has never attracted nearly as much attention as Holland the host. Even while touring he endeavours to lose himself in the numerous musicians comprising his Big Band. But is he any good? "He and his band play the sort of New Orleans R&B made famous by musicians like Professor Longhair and, within that limited tradition, Holland's good time bar room stuff is fine," reckons The Independent jazz critic Phil Johnson. "Thanks to his TV fame, he really doesn't have to do that much."

7.30pm, St David's Hall, Cardiff, pounds 14.50. Box office: 01222 878444 then touring

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