Jeff Goldblum's jazzy, quirky tribute to a family friend
November 18, 2018 8:41 PM   Subscribe

Jeff Goldblum plays a jazz show almost every week (NPR, 2014). It wasn't until he played piano to back up Gregory Porter on the Graham Norton Show that someone at Decca (The Guardian, May 2018) thought to put Goldblum's jazz to wax (double LP on Amazon). And it's not a solo gig, but rather Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra (22 minute YT video compilation of snippets from their Oct. 22, 2014 show), named after a family friend from his Pittsburgh childhood (Los Angeles Times article from 2000, in which Mildred Snitzer writes to Las Palmas Restaurant and asks for a cassette of the band who plays under her name -- "I love Dixieland jazz, so I hope that's what I'm doing.") Spoiler -- it's not.

Mildred was interviewed in 2001, when she knew more of Jeff's band, and recalled their intertwined family histories. Sadly, she didn't live to see her namesake band release its first album. Mildred Snitzer was born on January 12, 1908, and died on September 9, 2011, in Mountain View, California.

So, what of the album in question? Rob Harvilla wrote for The Ringer
Live footage suggests there is indeed a kitschy oh-what-the-hell quality to this, but there is some quiet excellence here too, or at least some loud competence. Here we have Goldblum flirting with former American Idol contestant Haley Reinhart as she coos through “My Baby Just Cares for Me”; he pulls some Silly Actor faces, but also some Serious Jazzman faces.

That tune might be the high point of The Capitol Studios Sessions, or at least the ideal balance between taking this excursion at least a little seriously versus not taking it seriously at all. The instrumental jams—particularly a lovely slo-mo whirl through the 1940 showtune “It Never Entered My Mind,” with stately Goldblum arpeggios unlikely to scandalize fans of either Miles Davis or Runaway Bride—are fine. Good. Great, even, if you want to grade them on a curve, and why wouldn’t you? And when he hops on the mic for more flirting—with Reinhart, or the Irish rockabilly ingenue Imelda May, or (why not) Sarah Silverman—you get the alluringly ridiculous Jeff Goldblum experience you crave.
Caroline Sullivan wrote a more favorable review for The Guardian, giving the album 4 out of 5 stars, noting that "the Hollywood star imposes his inimitable personality on a set of jazz standards, silkily played in the company of the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra," and going on to state
Underpinning all this showmanship is musicianship of a high standard, without which Goldblum wouldn’t be playing under the London jazz festival umbrella. At worst, this set of standards, silkily executed by Goldbum and the five-man Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, could be construed as the highest quality carpool karaoke. Goldblum doesn’t do much soloing; often, he’s more an awed sideman, overwhelmed by his bandmates’ fluency. There’s a loose-limbed, roadhouse feel as they slink from Come On-a My House to Autumn Leaves, with a stiffening visit to Marvin Gaye’s Don’t Mess With Mr T en route. “It’s very sexy,” Goldblum advises of the Gaye tune, which it is. It’s also very saxy, and I’m not complaining. But anyone can turn out twilit versions of Autumn Leaves, especially when Imelda May is along to sing them. It’s the Goldblumisms that set this musical side-hustle apart.
But don't take their words for it -- here's The Capitol Studios Sessions in full on YouTube, with official live audio and two official videos.

Sarah Silverman and Jeff Goldblum were previously discussed on the blue for their duet of "Me and My Shadow."
posted by filthy light thief (13 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I first learned of the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra on an episode of Ragnatalk (Anthony Carboni and Chuck Wendig talk about a particular ten minute chunk of Thor: Ragnarok in their 13-episode prestige-format podcast) and then this record crossed my path.

There are moments of pure, unadulterated Goldblum in it that you need in your life. I would included a few more were I producing it, but what remains is almost enough. Gotta leave some for a second or third album.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:06 PM on November 18, 2018

A friend pushed me to go see him one night when visiting LA on business after a long day. It was nice and had occassional moments of pure Goldblum. You could tell a lot of the crowd was there for him, but he kept the spotlight, as much as he could, on the other players. It was basically just another "dad jazz" group playing at the corner restaurant on a weeknight. If you would have a good time watching that, then he was just the icing on an otherwise decent slice of local music cake.
posted by fearingamerican at 11:45 PM on November 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've sat at these exact two piano seats for Marty & Elaine, I am here for this right after I get my car back from the shop. Looks like a good night for drinkin'.
posted by rhizome at 2:03 AM on November 19, 2018

He was playing at the Trianon in Paris a few hours ago!
posted by elgilito at 3:51 AM on November 19, 2018

My wife and I were in line at Ronnie Scott's club in London last month and there was an ad for Goldblum's upcoming appearance near the front door, which was a bit discombobulating at first because I had no idea he was a musician.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:08 AM on November 19, 2018

National Treasure.
posted by slogger at 6:27 AM on November 19, 2018

His recent interview on CBC's Q (click "listen" to hear the audio) is impossibly delightful.
posted by oulipian at 6:28 AM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

This whole thing gives me a lot feelings. There's a thing about jazz, as with most performative art, that if you mire yourself in it and you've got the ear and attitude, you can fake it. I kinda of HATE how up-its-ass university jazz was when my little highschool combo went touring around the competitions in Boston. You had this music with a wonderful, dirty history of genius and daring and it was reduced to the snobby, pretension of abstract art for speculators. (Mind you, the other combos were great. I'm just saying the college bands sucked)

And I think there are few modern hollywood stars whose instinctual rhythm and sense of improvisation is better suited to sitting with a jazz band. Watch a Goldblum interview or something like this and you can here him repeat questions or describe the situation in a way that is pretty much: content in -> staccato version out. So it makes perfect sense that he's a natural at comping. And good on him for supplementing his natural inclinations with some studying.

He's an amateur, but amateur jazz is fucking awesome.
posted by es_de_bah at 6:48 AM on November 19, 2018 [4 favorites]

I kinda of HATE how up-its-ass university jazz was when my little highschool combo went touring around the competitions in Boston

Ironically, they have arrived at a point where it's as formulaic and uncreative as it is possible to be, totally dominated by rules and formulas for what is "correct" to play.
posted by thelonius at 7:16 AM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

god he's just so unfailingly delightful.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:32 AM on November 19, 2018

No one ever tell me if he's not as delightful as he seems.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:00 PM on November 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was at the show this weekend. He was every bit as delightful as he seems.
posted by doop at 2:16 PM on November 19, 2018 [3 favorites]

I went to CalArts with his sax player, James King. It's really fun to hear Jeff's band- they have a cool attitude.
posted by cherryflute at 10:05 AM on November 20, 2018

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