By Randy Freedman
2018 has been an important year for actor and jazz pianist Jeff Goldblum. He was named InStyle Magazine's "Man Of The Year". In addition, on November 9th, he released his debut recording on Decca records entitled The Capital Studio Sessions, with his band The Mildred Snitzner Orchestra, so named after a family friend back from Pittsburg whom he also shares a weekly gig with at the Rockwell Table and Stage Club, Wednesday nights in Los Angeles, CA.
According to Goldblum, this joyous first album, was recorded in front of a live audience "to give it an extra injection of authentic smoke filled jazz club vibe." On it, Goldblum shows off both his hard-earned skills as a jazz pianist, and as a comedic conversationalist. During the course of his prolific acting career Goldblum has appeared in well over a hundred films spanning five decades. He is perhaps best remembered for his roles in science fiction thrillers, The Fly, Independence Day, and Jurassic Park.
Goldblum says that he expects the degree of cynicism that meets any actor who announces his musical ambitions and he recently told the BBC, that so far, people seem to be enjoying what he has to offer. "I'm playing with people who have really put in the 40,000 hours and double and triple that. I’ve taken another path [acting] but I’m serious about music, I’m disciplined, I play my music everyday and I love it. People come, some of whom who are interested for one reason or another, who have never heard much jazz and however I’ve gotten here, I feel like I can hold my head up and say I’m doing something that is genuine to me and people seem to be getting a kick out of it. But I bow and sit at the feet of great musicians and I'm still trying to learn."
In an interview with Ritchie DeMaria of the Santa Barbara Independent , Goldblum reflected on his musical success..."It’s thrilling. I’m just delighted and surprised by it. It kind of just happened, not for any strategy or any dream of mine over the years. We played at first under the radar and it kind of evolved organically, out of the pure enjoyment of it and the pleasure of playing. It became this other thing and now it’s developed into this, which feels just terrific...I am wildly enthusiastic. I’m good. I did all my homework, I did my piano practicing; I worked out; I’ve attended to the kids, Charlie Ocean and River Joe, and things are looking up. Now I’m preparing for my gig tonight at the Rockwell. We’ve been doing Rockwell for a few years, and I tell you, now that we’ve done this album, things have all sort of ramped up a little essentially at the same, but a little more interesting and exciting."
Goldblum goes on "Last year, you know, I played with two time Grammy winning vocalist Gregory Porter on Graham Norton Show, a British talk show, and Tom Lewis, the director of artists repertoire for Decca Records saw it." After hearing Goldblum's performance Lewis said "As far as I can tell, everyone loves Jeff Goldblum, he's a fantastic jazz pianist, a great band leader and just about the loveliest man in the world. His love of jazz is infectious and whenever he plays he makes you feel very happy. Maybe we'll do an album with him." We ended up getting Larry Klein, a great producer (Grammy winner for the Joni Mitchell' classic "Both Sides Now") to record it and now we are planning to go on this tour."
Goldblum credits his relatively recent sartorial recognition from InStyle to input from stylist Andrew Vottero after the duo met four years ago., “I had this photoshoot on a magazine, and he was there...I just had an insatiable appetite to talk about clothes and my closet. I thought he might be a receptive ear, and he knew everything. So I wanted to learn things.
I said to him 'Geez, at the end of the shoot, you should come home and see my closet. I’ll try everything on, and you can say which jeans to throw away and all that stuff.' He did, and we did, and and we had a creative collaboration that’s kind of produced this thing." Vottero kept Goldblum’s music background in mind as he transformed his closet after their first meeting. Goldblum recalled, "he took a look and said, 'let’s replace these three/four things with a suit, because you say you’ve played jazz'." Vottero also pulled out a lookbook that had photos of Frank Sinatra, the Rat Pack, people from the 50s, blue note records, and other record covers and added " Maybe there’s something in there. Does that spark?" I replied," I think it does.”
Like Bob Dylan, Lady Gaga, Willie Nelson and others before him, Goldblum has undertaken recording a jazz album by surrounding himself with terrific jazz sidemen and vocalists who frankly, could have produced a sensational sounding jazz recording even if Goldblum were not present at all. But the skills and confidence of his musical colleagues should in no way be seen to diminish Goldblum's remarkable contributions to this project or as a criticism of his, perhaps surprisingly, good piano skills. Goldblum's role here is just much more than just being his band's keyboardist. He also, has an important part of the overall experience, silently excuses himself from the piano and acts as host, cheerleader, historian, comedian, and moderator as required. Therefore, a second piano and pianist on stage and available to either play with, or in place of, Goldblum is both required and provided. Often times Goldblum and his piano are featured, but when he takes on one of the many other tasks he has assigned to himself, the other keyboard enters seamlessly.and the musical experience is totally uninterrupted. Very clever. The audience receives both the maximum Goldblum and the maximum jazz experience simultaneously. I believe that is exactly what most of his devoted fans desire. The importance of Goldblum's very likable demeanor and snappy banter to his band's success cannot be overstated.
Read the review of Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzner Orchestra:The Capital Studio Sessions
Chicago freelance writer Randy Freedman is a jazz connoisseur, photographer, food critic, humorist, and devoted music fan. He is a regular contributor to Chicago Jazz Magazine.