Life finds a way: Goldblum’s jazz album
August Pelliccio – Features and Opinions Editor
Twenty-four minutes and 58 seconds into his new album, Jeff Goldblum gets the inevitable “Jurassic Park” reference out of the way.
It was no surprise that this would occur, not even halfway through “The Capitol Studio Sessions.” Despite that and a cameo by comedian Sarah Silverman, the record was a fun and intelligent collection of jazz tunes written by a variety of historically acclaimed jazz musicians. Such famous names as Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole and even Marvin Gaye wrote many of the tracks.
One might wonder how the actor’s name belongs alongside some of the biggest names in jazz. As it turns out, Goldblum is a somewhat accomplished jazz pianist, and plays covers with his band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
This particular collection of live recordings begins with Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island,” which transports the listener to a 1974 Chicago nightclub. Piano improvisation is inspired, if somewhat elementary. Some under- standing of freeform jazz is exhibited, and the accompaniment is spot-on, meaning the opener kept me listening.
Gaye’s “Don’t Mess with Mister T” follows and introduces featured trumpeter Till Brönner. It is clear the musicians are having fun bouncing licks off one another, impro- vising together. The way the trumpet and saxophone follow each other, and even play out the song in unison sounds like homage to the legendary Miles Davis and Charlie Parker duo.
The baritone saxophone accompaniment in “My Baby Just Cares for Me” is sure to strike a chord even with the listener who is not particularly fond of jazz. Especially enjoyable on that track is the vocal lead by singer Hailey Reinhart, most famous for winning
“American Idol” and touring with Postmodern Jukebox.
Silverman appears in a duet with Goldblum for Billy Rose’s “Me and my Shadow.” The cover is satir- ical, adding commentary on more recent pop culture and political points, such as the Chicago Redskins’ name and global warming, oh and of course, “Jurassic Park.” It is tastefully humorous that he understands which role he is most widely known for in his 42-year Holly- wood career, and jokes about it.
Charles Mingus would be proud of the group’s rendition of “Nostalgia in Times Square,” which is kept tight and safe in regard to improvisation, but is still stirring.
The latter half of the album consists of mainly downtempo, “easy listening” jazz, so to speak.
High energy is brought back to the performance in the closer, Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.” Goldblum becomes liberal with his improvisation, showing an interest in free jazz. He plays around the melody, in between the notes in an artful fashion.
Goldblum’s career as a jazz pianist began at age 15, according to a profile in The Guardian. It was not until the ripe age of 65 that he signed his first record deal, with Decca. It is probably thanks to that 50-year limbo that not many outside the local Los Angeles community knew of Goldblum’s live music career.
Notwithstanding, “The Captiol Studio Sessions” will stay in my library, if not just for novelty, for easy listening in the back- ground of a cocktail party. It is that good, but I will still probably utter, “hey, did you know this is Jeff Goldblum?”
Photo Credit: Kent Williams