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Having picked up an OBE in the Queen's Birthday honours list, every Briton's favourite boogie pianist and TV music presenter Jools Holland is back to hanging out with the cream of the musical aristocracy on Jack O the Green
, the third instalment in his Small World Big Band
series. From the glowing vibrato of Buddy Guy
's guitar on "She Suits Me to a Tee" to the valedictory reassurances of veteran jazzer Jimmy Scott
's "I'll Be Seeing You", this is music that's low on both conceit and pretence and high on skills, thrills, chemistry and camaraderie.
While classics and standards abound--bar-room rock manoeuvres with old warhorses such as Ronnie Wood or Ringo Starr, soul with Smokey Robinson, life-affirming bluebeat with Prince Buster--Holland himself has either penned or copenned 12 of the 21 songs, among them personalised endowments for croaky weather-beaten bruisers such as Shane Macgowan and Steve Earle, fresher pop daisies such as the Sugababes or amiable English geezers such as Suggs (whose jolly Mayday-flavoured title track joins the dots between Madness, the Kinks, Jethro Tull and the Undertones). Connoisseurs may well salivate over the two tracks pairing Solomon Burke with Eric Clapton, but with the likes of the pretty, harpsichord-adorned collaboration with fiddler Eliza Carthy and the poignant reappearance of the late Kirsty MacColl (reworking a song she'd left unreleased since 1981), there really is something for everybody, possibly even Her Majesty. --Kevin Maidment