It’s a delicious irony, really; the very qualities everybody loves about Jeff Goldblum are the exact same qualities most people can’t abide about jazz.
Urbanity. Sophistication. Intelligence. Turtlenecks. Oversized specs. A polished, patrician brand of sexiness – like copping a feel with your old professor, at a wine tasting.
Well, wouldn’t you know, turns out old Jeffy is a dab hand at jazz piano. He’s been tickling the ivories at his favourite LA joint for yonks now, apparently, and reckons he can make you fall in love with that most prehistorically unfashionable of genres by force of personality alone.
Hence this record, out tomorrow on Decca, misleadingly titled ‘Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra – The Capitol Studios Sessions’.
Misleading, because it wasn’t committed to tape in a formal studio setting. No, that would kill the concept stone dead – what we have here is a cheerful hour-or-so of the geezer from Jurassic Park holding court at the piano in front of a well-heeled, well-oiled and chatty dinner theatre audience.
You know what though? It’s actually a great introduction to jazz.
He only really sings on one number, an intentionally-comic rendition of Al Jolson’s ‘Me And My Shadow’ – a duet, as it happens, with comedian Sarah Silverman. Really, he’s all about the inbetween-song bantz, calling out mates in the audience and generally playing the raconteur, erring maybe a smidge on the letchy side – “you’ve come gussied up… let me drink you in… look at you…every bit of a lady” – whilst introducing Silverman. But whatever, he’s Jeff Goldblum and nobody seems to mind.
Whisper it, but he isn’t an especially outstanding pianist. Good enough to vamp along with old tried-and-true standards like ‘Cantaloupe Island’ or ‘Straighten Up And Fly Right’ and chuck in the odd crowd-pleasing glissando. His backing band kick ass, and, again, he’s Jeff Goldblum so who cares. At least he’s not Jon Benjamin, the Bob’s Burgers guy, who took the absolute fucking piss in 2015 with a jazz record made without knowing how to play a damn note.
In fairness, Goldblum clearly gets a huge kick out of the Nina Simone-inspired piano riff on ‘I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free’. I’d bet a hundred quid it’s his big party piece, and he’s practiced it every day of his life.
And that really isn't a critique – just as on screen, not being the leading man rather suits Goldblum. As well as Silverman, top-drawer vocal performances from Imelda May and the heart-meltingly expressive Hayley Reinhart own the spotlight, and virtuoso trumpet chops from Till Brönner assure plenty of red meat for proper jazz aficionados to get their teeth into.
The record's real genius is that it manages to ease all you basic-bitch jazz skeptics in with opening tunes you’ll recognise from TV adverts. And if, by the time you’re eight tracks in, the stellar all-instrumental ballad ‘It Never Entered My Mind’ doesn't send your spirit sailing off into a blissful starlit reverie, well, that’s on you. This is as fine an introduction to the form as you’ll get, and weirdly it took a walking 90s meme to make it happen. I guess jive, uh, finds a way.