Jazz With Jeff Goldblum And Friends

Bruce Von Stiers

Jeff Goldblum has quite the acting resume. He's done bit parts on shows like Columbo and lead roles in films such as Jurassic Park. One of my favorite early roles of Jeff's is as Tony, the kind of sleazy owner of a disco in 1978's Thank God It's Friday.

But Jeff is much more than just an actor. He is a terrific pianist. At the age of 14, Jeff was playing gigs at various venues in his native Pittsburg, often accompanying vocalists or simply playing jazz tunes before restaurant and club audiences.

Playing jazz has become a lifelong passion for Jeff. So much so, that wherever he's filming or somewhere away from home, Jeff tries to make sure a piano is nearby so he can play. He has also over the years played at various venues, at times having musical artists and vocalists sit in on sessions with him. These guest appearances cumulated into what Jeff ultimately called the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, which is named for a family friend.

A couple set of circumstances led to an offer to record Jeff and the orchestra. So Jeff gathered up members of the orchestra, and a few other friends, and set out to record an album.

The album was recorded in the famed Capital Records studios, where such greats as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole recorded some of their best songs. The album is appropriately titled The Capital Studios Sessions. The artist listing for the album is Jeff Goldblum & the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.

The album has fourteen songs and a play time of just under an hour. It was produced by Larry Klein, whose credits include albums by Joni Mitchell and Herbie Hancock. Klein is also a member of the orchestra and plays on the album. The Capital Studios Sessions was released on the Decca Records label.

Normally when there are multiple artists who play on an album, I list their individual credits. But to do so here would probably take almost a full page. Let's just say that the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra has some of the best musical talent that Jeff could have assembled. Those members include John Storie on guitar, James King on saxophone, Kenny Elliot on drums, Alex Frank on bass, Joe Bagg on Hammond organ and backing vocals, Keith Addis and Michael Abrams. Till Bronner plays flugelhorn on several songs. And, of course, Jeff plays piano and does vocals on the album.

Aside from the musicians in the orchestra, Jeff invited a few great vocalists to join him on the album. Those vocalists were Haley Reinhart, Imelda May and Sarah Silverman.

Before I forget, this album was recorded live before an audience at the studios.

Starting out the album is a terrific rendition of Cantaloupe Island, one of my favorite Herbie Hancock songs.

Marvin Gaye wrote Don't Mess Around With Mister T. Stanley Turrentine had a hit with the song in 1973. Jeff and the orchestra do a really nice job on the song, putting a subtler touch on it in some parts.

Written for the 1930 film Whoopee, Nina Simone had a hit with My Baby Just Cares For Me in 1957. The song is done by Haley Reinhart on this album. You can tell that Jeff seems to be having a lot of fun on the album. That is evident in the intro to the song when Jeff introduces Haley and the two have a fun banter before the song begins. Then Haley gives a great vocal performance of the song.

The next vocal entry on the album is Nat King Cole song, Straighten Up And Fly Right. The vocals were masterfully done by Imelda May. There is some great flugelhorn and sax music in the song as well along with some nice backing vocals.

The album has a fun three minute interlude where Jeff introduces Sarah Silverman. Then Sarah and Jeff dive into a nice duet rendition of the Al Jolson song, Me and My Shadow.

Toe tapping music then follows with a rousing rendition of the Mingus song, Nostalgia In Times Square. There is some really cool organ music in the middle of the song.

Then there is a beautiful rendition of It Never Entered My Mind featuring Till Bronner.

Haley Reinhart gets another fun introduction for Gee Baby (Ain't I Good To You). Haley's version of the song is closer to Susan Boyd's than Billie Holliday's.

There is a nice turn on the Billy Taylor song, I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free).

Mellow, yet sad is the love lament This Bitter Earth. Imelda May does a great job with the lyrical angst of the song. And the flugelhorn solo in the song is fantastic.

Imelda Ray brings thing back to a lighter side with a terrific rendition of Come On A My House.

Then there is a fantastic rendition of the Duke Ellington song Caravan.

Jeff close the album with thanks to all of the people who came and played on the album along with the vocalists.

I always enjoy a good jazz album. Sometimes, though, an album will go way beyond my expectations. That is what happened with The Capital Studios Sessions. Not only does Jeff Goldblum seem to be having fun, so do the guest vocalists and the members of the orchestra. They put forth performances that shine well beyond the typical jazz album.

The Capital Studios Sessions has been out for a bit now. You should be able to find it on your favorite streaming platform or through a music retailer. The liner notes on the physical copy of the album gives the listener a little bit of background and perspective for Jeff's music and how the album came about.

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© 2020 Bruce E Von Stiers