Album: I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This
Artist: Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra
Record Labels: Universal Music Operations Limited and Decca Records
Recommended Tracks: Track 4 – B and Track 4 – The Thrill is Gone / Django (with Miley Cyrus)
Jeff Goldblum. You know the name, however probably not within the context of jazz music. That’s right, Hollywood’s quirky uncle, the star of films such as Jurassic Park, The Fly, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and the owner of one of the silver screen’s most peculiar speaking cadences, is also a talented and passionate pianist. While not completely out of left field, Goldblum’s forays into music add an interesting element to his eccentricism. However, trying to dissect this album as some article of the erratic and colorful persona of a Hollywood phenom might leave one a bit disappointed on this venture, as Goldblum’s oddball sensibilities definitely may have pushed him to pursue music seriously, however they don’t necessarily translate to his jazz covers. This isn’t necessarily to the album’s detriment as much as it elucidates the fault in approaching this album expecting it to ooze quirkiness or be centered around Goldblum himself. On the contrary, I interpret this album as well as Goldblum’s previously released collection of live covers as a passion project of sorts. I don’t think Goldblum is necessarily trying to accomplish some great musical feat or establish himself as a multi-medium virtuoso, or even do anything particularly “weird”. Goldblum produces cheery, pretty by the numbers covers of jazz standards (and some not-so-standards) with clean playing across instruments, decent soloing, and some really interesting guest vocals. Overall, I’d give this album a 3/5, as again, it isn’t breaking any new ground, and the only covers that have any particular value over the originals are those featuring guest vocalists from across the musicsphere, such as Miley Cyrus, Fiona Apple, Sharon Van Etten, etc.
My first standout track is the first of a couple moments on the album Goldblum opts for a completely instrumental cut, “Driftin’”. Originally off of Herbie Hancock’s famed 1962 debut Takin’ Off, “Driftin’” is a track well suited for any soloist trying to flex their chops. Goldblum opts for a slightly shorter track length than the original, by just over 2 minutes, and it’s a decision that definitely pays off, as the solos are nowhere near as compelling as those that justified the original 7-minute track. The track shows off Goldblum’s soloing, which isn’t particularly unique, but is surprisingly crisp and well articulated. The original has a Dexter Gordon alto-sax solo that Goldblum’s version does not try to imitate, which is probably a wise move, however it is one of the reasons the track is clearly inferior to its antecedent. Again, I don’t think Jeff Goldblum was trying to surpass Herbie Hancock, and therefore I take this as a valiant effort at interpreting a great tune.
The moments where the album really exceeds its station as a gimmick-y covers album are the tracks centered around guest vocalists. Sharon Van Etten, Fiona Apple, Anna Calvi, and pretty much every guest vocalist smashes their feature, which definitely aids in the album’s shelf life and appeal. My personal favorite collaboration on the project is “The Thrill is Gone / Django” with Miley Cyrus. This collaboration is definitely one of the more interesting on the project, as anguished lounge-y jazz definitely isn’t something I would’ve figured into Miley’s wheelhouse, but she nails her performance. The slight smokiness of her voice, her superstar charisma, and the remnants of her nigh imperceptible Nashville twang juxtaposed against the track’s dramatic horn arrangements creates a super compelling rendition of the Chet Baker track. If you check out any track from this album, I would definitely make this it, as it exemplifies Miley Cyrus’ talent and range as a vocalist.
Past all the ritzy glitzy presentation of this album, there is a warmth to the sessions and to the varied vocal performances which makes it stand out. I would attribute said warmth to the lighthearted passion driving this project. It’s clear Goldblum is having fun, and while one could critique his lack of innovation within covers, or over reliance on his guest vocalists as the core of his reimaginations, Goldblum isn’t trying to push any new frontiers here, he’s just having fun. So you might as well have some fun with him, and if you’re looking for an easy listen with a glamorous Hollywood twist and a slew of sweet guest performances, give this a listen. If you like this album, I would check out some of the original musicians that crafted these tracks, such as Herbie Hancock, Chet Baker, or Nat King Cole.