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can jools holland read music?

3 Answer(s) Available
Answer # 1 #

I began to learn piano many years ago when I was a small boy, and I didn’t really have anyone that inspired me at all at the time. The music itself was what inspired me to learn, and I just enjoyed it for what it was. However, after passing all of the classical grades I was suddenly left unsure of what to do next, and at the age of nineteen I was rather lost in terms of what style I wanted to play.

My tutor at the time wanted me to take my diploma’s and consider tackling full Beethoven Sonata’s of around 30 pages long, but it wasn’t something that I was interested in. And in all fairness, I wasn’t that good at classical either. Sure, I passed my grade 8 easy enough, and I never really practiced as much as I could have. So if I had put the hours in, then I could have gone even further and taken piano to the next level. But although I’ve always liked classical and still play it now, it’s not something that truly inspired and motivated me to want to play the piano.

I remember telling everyone at work that I’d passed my grade 8 and I was so proud and wanted to show off. And as luck would have it we had our works Christmas party a couple of months later and there was a piano right next to our table. So after a couple of beers they were all egging me on to play, which I agreed to do. However, when I sat down to play I suddenly realised that I didn’t have my music with me, and all that I could really play was the classical pieces I’d been learning for the grade 8. I could remember a few things however without the music, so I played some sections of the classical stuff I’d been learning over the previous few months. The problem with this though was that when you are in a restaurant surrounded by your work colleagues, they don’t seem to really enjoy classical too much whilst they are having a beer. So after about 10 minutes everyone seemed to get bored and just talked over me. I sat back down feeling a little embarrassed, and although everyone told me I was good, I realised that I hadn’t made much of an impression.

So what was the point in me learning to play all these years when I couldn’t entertain a few of my friends? Now I’m not saying that classical piano doesn’t entertain, and it probably didn’t help that the grade 8 pieces are not exactly the crème de la crème, and neither am I when it comes to playing classical piano. But in that particular scenario and atmosphere, it just wasn’t the right style.

I remember feeling really disappointed with myself after that night, and I felt that all my hard work had gone to waste. However, salvation was just around the corner, and on my 21st birthday my Dad surprised me with some tickets to go and see Jools Holland who I’d started to take a liking to at the time. My brother came along also for the ride, even though it wasn’t to his liking usually, but as it was my birthday he agreed to come. So the three of us were sat on the balcony waiting for him to come on, and I happened to realise that we were sat on the right hand side of the stage looking down and across, and I wouldn’t be able to see his fingers. So although we were really close to the stage, I wouldn’t be able to see what he was playing, which was a huge disappointment as a pianist. But fortunately for me, when Jools Holland came on and starting playing, a big screen came up behind him and a camera was sat pointing along the keys showing everyone in the audience a close up of what he was playing. This was a very new concept to me and it hadn’t occurred that something as simple as this was going to happen. And it was amazing! I was able to see what he was playing and it made the whole show much better for it.

What inspired me the most was what he was playing – boogie woogie. I’d heard this style a couple of times before, but not really to the extent of a whole show. And what amazed and inspired me the most about this style and Jools Holland, was his ability to sit down at the piano and just starting playing a left hand on his own, without anyone else playing, and make such a huge sound. I’d always been taught to play mainly with both hands, so to hear a left hand make such a statement was unreal.

From that day on I realised what I wanted to play, and that was boogie woogie and blues. So I set about watching as many videos as I could of people playing boogie woogie left hands, to try and learn them for myself. At the time I couldn’t seem to find any sheet music, so the only way I could learn was to observe and try and pick up the notes, fingers, and rhythm of what I could see and hear. It was very difficult at first, but once I’d mastered a few left hands, then the rest fell into place. However, the hardest part I found after learning the left hand was to put a right hand to it over the top. Hand independence is a huge part of play boogie woogie, and I set about practicing the left hand for hours and hours before I played the right hand. It was very boring at times, but essential if you want to play boogie woogie well.

After many years of practice I can finally play this style well, along with slow blues. I’ve played in some great blues bands over the past few years which have allowed me to play what I’ve learnt, and to see the reaction and enjoyment on the audience’s faces is priceless, and something that continues to inspire me to play and perform when I can.

However, I don’t forget my roots, and taking the classical exams and spending countless hours practicing scales is what got me here. So if anyone asks me now how to play boogie woogie, then I always try and push them in the direction of learning classical first. It isn’t always essential, and there are many exceptional boogie woogie players out there that haven’t played classical and can’t read music that would disagree with me; but I always feel that these people are in a very talented minority that can get away with it. For the most part, learning to read music and playing classical is an important foundation that can be used to either continue playing classical, or to branch out to other styles.

If I ever now come across a piano in a bar or pub, and my friends want me to play something, then I always make them smile with boogie woogie. I can sit down, start playing that left hand, and get everyone’s attention.

So for anyone reading this that’s keen to learn the blues and boogie woogie styles, don’t forget that you may need to put the hard work in first to get what you want…

Howie Belcher
Arts Administrator
Answer # 2 #

Julian Miles Holland OBE DL (born 24 January 1958) is an English pianist, bandleader, singer, composer and television presenter. He was an original member of the band Squeeze and has worked with many artists including Marc Almond, Joss Stone, Jayne County, Sting, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, George Harrison, David Gilmour, Magazine, The The, Ringo Starr and Bono.

From 1982 until 1987, he co-presented the Channel 4 music programme The Tube. Since 1992, he has hosted Later... with Jools Holland, a music-based show aired on BBC2, on which his annual show Hootenanny is based. Holland is a published author and appears on television shows besides his own. He regularly hosted the programme Jools Holland on BBC Radio 2. In 2004 he collaborated with Tom Jones on an album of traditional R&B music.

Holland was born on 24 January 1958 in Blackheath, South East London. At the age of eight, he could play the piano fluently by ear. By his early teens he was appearing regularly in many of the pubs in South East London and the East End Docks.

Holland was educated at Shooters Hill Grammar School in southeast London, from which he was expelled for damaging a teacher's Triumph Herald.

Holland began his career as a session musician. His first studio session was with Wayne County & the Electric Chairs in 1976 on their track "Fuck Off".

Holland was a founding member of the British pop band Squeeze, formed in March 1974, in which he played keyboards until 1980, through its first three albums, the eponymous Squeeze, Cool for Cats and Argybargy, before pursuing his solo career.

Holland began issuing solo records in 1978, his first EP being Boogie Woogie '78. He continued his solo career through the early 1980s, releasing an album and several singles between 1981 and 1984. He branched out into TV, co-presenting the Newcastle-based TV music show The Tube with Paula Yates. Holland used the phrase, "be there, or be an ungroovy fucker" in one early evening TV trailer for the show, live across two channels, causing him to be suspended from the show for six weeks. He referred to this in his sitcom The Groovy Fellers with Rowland Rivron. Holland also appeared as a guest host on MTV.

In 1983, Holland played an extended piano solo on The The's re-recording of "Uncertain Smile" for the album Soul Mining. In 1985, Squeeze (which had continued in Holland's absence through to 1982) unexpectedly regrouped including Holland as their keyboard player. Holland remained in the band until 1990, at which point he again departed to resume his solo career as a musician and a TV host.

In 1987, Holland formed the Jools Holland Big Band, which consisted of himself and for the show Gilson Lavis from Squeeze, which gradually grew and was renamed as Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. In May 2022, it was a 17-piece orchestra and included singers Louise Marshall, Ruby Turner and Holland's daughter Mabel Ray, as well as his younger brother, singer-songwriter and keyboard player, Christopher Holland.

Between 1988 and 1990 Holland performed and co-hosted along with David Sanborn during the two seasons of the music performance programme Sunday Night on NBC late-night television. Since 1992, he has presented the music programme Later... with Jools Holland, plus an annual New Year's Eve Hootenanny.

In 1996, Holland signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, and his records are now marketed through Rhino Records.

On 29 November 2002, Holland was in the ensemble of musicians who performed at the Concert for George, which celebrated the music of George Harrison. In January 2005 Holland and his band performed with Eric Clapton as the headline act of the Tsunami Relief Cardiff.

On BBC Radio 2 Holland regularly hosted the programme Jools Holland, a mix of live and recorded music and general chat, featuring studio guests, along with members of his orchestra.

In March 2023, Jimmy Barnes announced the formation of supergroup The Barnestormers, featuring Barnes, Chris Cheney, Slim Jim Phantom, Jools Holland and Kevin Shirley. A self-titled album was released on 26 May 2023.

As a teenager, Holland lived with his grandparents, which he mentioned anecdotally in a 2020 episode of Rhod Gilbert's Growing Pains.

Holland has a son, George, and daughter, Rose, with his former partner Mary Leahy. On 30 August 2005, Holland married Christabel McEwen, his girlfriend of 15 years and daughter of artist Rory McEwen. The couple have a daughter, Mabel, and McEwen has a son, Frederick Lambton, Viscount Lambton, by her former marriage to Ned Lambton, the 7th Earl of Durham.

Holland lives in Westcombe Park, south east London, where he had his studio, Helicon Mountain, built to his design and inspired by Portmeirion, the setting for the 1960s TV series The Prisoner. He also owns a manor house near the medieval Cooling Castle in Kent.

He appeared on the cover of Railway Modeller magazine in January 2019. In the attic of his house, Holland has spent ten years building a 100-foot (30 m) model railway. It is full of miniature buildings and landscapes that stretch from Berlin to London. He started with photographs and paintings from early 1960s London. According to The Daily Telegraph, "In the evenings, he builds some trains and buildings before switching on some music, pouring a glass of wine and switching on the trains to watch them move around the room."

He received an OBE in 2003 in the Queen's Birthday Honours list, for services to the British music industry as a television presenter and musician. In September 2006, Holland was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Kent. Holland was appointed an honorary fellow of Canterbury Christ Church University at a ceremony held at Canterbury Cathedral on 30 January 2009. On 1 February 2011 he was appointed honorary colonel of 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment.

In June 2006, Holland performed in Southend for HIV/AIDS charity Mildmay, and in early 2007 he performed at Wells and Rochester Cathedrals to raise money for maintaining cathedral buildings. He is also patron of Drake Music.

A fan of the 1960s TV series The Prisoner, in 1987 Holland demonstrated his love of the series and starred in a spoof documentary, The Laughing Prisoner, with Stephen Fry, Terence Alexander and Hugh Laurie. Much of it was shot on location in Portmeirion, with archive footage of Patrick McGoohan, and featuring musical numbers from Siouxsie and the Banshees, Magnum and XTC. Holland performed a number towards the end of the programme.

Holland was an interviewer for The Beatles Anthology TV project, and appeared in the 1997 film Spiceworld as a musical director.

In 2009, Holland commissioned TV series Bangla Bangers (Chop Shop) to create a replica of the Rover JET1 for personal use. Holland has previously owned cats.

in 2018, Holland became the President of the British Watch & Clock Makers Guild.

His 2007 autobiography, Barefaced Lies and Boogie-Woogie Boasts, was BBC Radio 4 "Book of the Week" in the week beginning 8 October 2007 and was read by Holland.

Answer # 3 #

“I learned to play long before I could read music and that makes complete sense to me.

Setu Rajguru