Jeff Goldblum Finds A New Way To Jive With The Classics

Sela Sheloni

Jeff Goldblum is calling from a “luxuriously roomy little closet” inside his Los Angeles home. He only has 15 minutes for an interview, but he’ll spend at least five of those minutes singing jazz songs. Sometimes the music says it best. 

Asked about his first memories of jazz, he sings the trumpet line from Herb Alpert’s instrumental 1965 album, Whipped Cream and Other Delights. Considering the relevance of jazz in an era of distrust and corruption, he reprises a moment from an appearance on The Colbert Show, talk-singing Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” in his velvet voice. 

“Soon we’ll be without the moon, humming a different tune, “and then there may be teardrops to shed,” he rushy-stop sings. “But while there’s moonlight, music, and love and romance, let’s face the music and dance.” 

He ends the song doing both vocal parts in crescendo. He takes a breath, letting the lyrics sink in.

“I think that has something to do with our time,” he concludes. “That gives me a little lift — it gives me a lift and chills too. It’s a chilling time we live in.”

The father, husband, legendary charmer, and gregarious character best known for iconic acting performances in films like Jurassic Park, The Big Chill, The Fly, and The Life Aquatic, is also a passionate jazz pianist. I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This is Goldblum’s sophomore album with his band the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. 

Nostalgic and fun, the album features a mix of renditions of classics like “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” and delightful mashups of standards like “Sidewinder” with the Sonny and Cher hit, “The Beat Goes On.” 

These aren’t stale covers of the same classics. Goldblum’s music is as enigmatic and enthusiastic as his acting performances. Looking back, he says that as an actor he sometimes over-prepared to get to the right emotional place for the scene. But music was different.

“As you started to play it, whether it was a sad song, or a happy song, [the music] sort of provided,” Goldblum explains. “Trying to render the song and the story, and communicating it somehow gave you all the feeling that you needed.” 

Music came before acting success did. He cut his teeth as a pianist growing up in Pittsburgh. Though he wasn’t educated at a jazz institution, he took lessons, learning chords and exercising his improvisational muscles with the standards in fake books. That set his course.

After years of playing weekly gigs in L.A., Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra released their live album debut in 2018. The Capitol Studio Sessions topped the charts in the UK, U.S., Germany and Australia, and received a warm critical welcome. It was only a matter of time before a sequel was in the making. 

Skills that make Goldblum a captivating actor—improvisation, curiosity, and generosity towards —also serve him well as a jazz musician.

After making his film debut 45 years ago, Goldblum has captured Hollywood’s elusive holy grail: longevity. Duets on I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This feature a diverse range of collaborators from Gregory Porter and Miley Cyrus, to Fiona Apple and Sharon Van Etten. A contagious sense of joy is palpable throughout the record. Transposing songs from bygone eras, Goldblum’s album serves a powerful counterpoint to the foreboding doom of the current political climate. 

It’s not surprising that people are still clamouring to work with him given his joie de vivre, but where does he draw his enthusiasm from?

“Any time where general stupidity and backwardness and darkness can befall us, music of all sorts can lift our spirits,” he says. “It can be relevant to our healing and an upliftment toward our better angels. But on this album specifically…”

 He’s mid-sentence when something strikes him. 

“Ooooh,” he rumbles in his excited, somewhat sinister-sounding baritone. “Ooooh, wait a minute, wait a minute, well…”

He starts singing again. 

“Make someone happy —make just one someone happy, then you’ll be happy too,” that Gregory Porter sings [on the new album]. “Ooooh, that has something to do with a nice credo, you know?” 

I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This is available November 1, 2019