Jeff Goldblum’s debut album The Capitol Studios Sessions plays out with the Hollywood A-lister/geek’s vote of thanks to his band The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. One by one, he enthuses in a decidedly old-school starry manner about how they’re brilliant, just the best, couldn’t get better, ladies and gentlemen. His live show, it turns out, ramps up this charming generosity of spirit to two and a bit hours. If that sounds like so much oozing schmaltz, in Goldblum’s charismatic presence it feels entirely genuine. Here is a performance brimmed full of joie de vivre, infectiously quirky humour and not a little musical talent.
Out of context the new album, made up of jazz bop standards from the ‘50s and ‘60s, could be dismissed as a mere rich dilettante’s folly, something to keep a pensionable-age actor in the limelight 25 years on from his starring role fending off a T-Rex in Jurassic Park. But, leaving aside his illustrious cinematic career, Goldblum’s semi-regular shows at Los Angeles venue The Rockwell Table & Stage and beyond put paid to such notions. Resplendent in tropical patterned shirt, thick-rimmed glasses and jazz cat trilby, he seems at least a decade junior to his years. Here is a man enjoying life, and he’d love it if you were along for the ride.
The barrier between artist and audience is broken down well before the scheduled beginning. To no fanfare whatsoever, the grinning blockbuster star of Independence Day and The Fly ambles on to the Cadogan Hall’s stage for a natter, and immediately we’re guests at his home – he even performs Rosemary Clooney‘s Come On-A-My House early in the set. But before all that, he’d like to play a most Goldblumian game; specifically, an improvisational association game, where actors connected to each other by films eventually lead to our leading man. It’s all thoroughly disarming, even if one is left wondering at what point the music might return. In an interval between sets he ambles down into the stalls to pose for pictures and supply hugs as demanded. Celebrity be damned; in this setting Goldblum is entirely and unusually accessible. Here stands the favourite uncle you never had, taking a selfie with you.
His five-piece backing band the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra – John Storie’s guitar, Alex Frank’s bass, Kenny Elliott’s drums, Joe Bagg’s organ and James King on tenor sax – comes augmented at key points by Dublin-born, smoky-voiced Imelda May. She’s the only member of the ensemble to leave and enter during the set and she’s only ever called upon for her vocal talents. She’s also the only lead vocalist; Goldblum prefers to be the glue that holds the show together. Proving she can match his kookiness, May at one point recites one of her own poems. There’s evident chemistry, despite his confession that he’s yet to set foot on the island of Ireland. Her understated rendition of This Bitter Earth is a set highlight.
The music, perhaps surprisingly given our casually goofy host, errs on the side of familiar, typified by Herbie Hancock‘s Canteloupe Island. At the decidedly accessible end of jazz, Goldblum’s choices reveal an accomplished if surprisingly unshowy pianist who subtly leads, even while his grand piano is closed, and who happily cedes showy solo spots to his bandmates. His evident joy at connection, at being part of a larger whole with his fellow humans, is clear as he applauds individual displays of virtuosity. This more than his music suggests he would be a huge star at whatever he fancied to do. What we see then is, despite being part of the London Jazz Festival, less a tour de force of jazz, and more a presentation of a familiar talent’s lesser known side, underpinned with intelligence and contagious enjoyment of human warmth.
He finishes the set promptly at 9:30pm, as he earlier joked he would – for this is when The Jonathan Ross Show goes out, and he’s on it. Given all the interludes of quizzes and jokes, it feels a little too early to end; more music would surely have been welcomed, not least an encore. But Ol’ Blue Eyes himself would have understood that keeping ‘em wanting more is key. His public, many gladly waiting at the stage door after the show, know he’s not the sort to breeze airily by them. It’s wonderful to find that Jeff Goldblum live is everything he could be expected to be.