JEFF GOLDBLUM & THE MILDRED SNITZER ORCHESTRA – I SHOULDN’T BE TELLING YOU THIS
For the past few years actor and living meme Jeff Goldblum has been trying to add another line to his resume, that of jazz pianist and bandleader. Goldblum has actually been studying and playing jazz piano for many years, and the world got its first taste when he and his band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, started playing live shows earlier this decade. This all led to a record deal with Decca and last year’s Capitol Studios Sessions live album, which featured guests like Sarah Silverman and Haley Reinhart.
I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This is the follow-up, and unlike the Capitol Studios Sessions, is a proper studio album in a possible move to further prove the legitimacy of this venture. But if we’re all honest, part of the charm of the Capitol album was the snippets of Jeff’s interactions with his guests and the audience. Even if some of the humor in the moment was lost in translation, they did elevate the experience. On Shouldn’t, a casual listener wouldn’t know they were listening to Jeff Goldblum until the final track.
As on Capitol, those hoping to be serenaded by the dulcet tones of Goldblum’s voice will be disappointed. Instead, he defers vocal duties to an impressive list of guests that includes Sharon Van Etten, Fiona Apple, and Miley Cyrus among others. The guests perform well for the most part, but at times it’s very obvious that these are rock and pop vocalists and not jazz singers.
It’s worth noting that the guests aren’t just singing straight jazz standards. A few get to sing clever mashups, like Inara George singing Sonny & Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” over Lee Morgan’s “The Sidewinder,” or Anna Calvi singing Marianne Faithfull’s “Broken English” over Wes Montgomery’s “Four on Six.” This shows Jeff’s cleverness as a bandleader and curator of their repertoire.
Musically, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra once again proves to be competent but not too flashy in their presentation. The solos are not so wild that the tracks would be unwelcome on a restaurant playlist, but close listening uncovers skillful musicianship. Similarly, Goldblum’s piano doesn’t slow the band down in the slightest. He’s competent to say the least, but he still chooses to let others shine.
Goldblum does offer his vocal talents on the final track, the lullaby “Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day.” While the performance certainly isn’t the strongest on the album, there’s something strangely comforting in having everyone’s internet dad sing you to sleep.
Overall, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This is an enjoyable but safe listen. Jeff Goldblum has more than enough star power to phone it in on a lazy celebrity holiday album, but instead he has decided to shoot for a musical career based on real talent, which he has. While I lament the exclusion of his on-stage banter, he’s produced a celebrity jazz album that will probably be loved by boomers and millennials alike. However, it’s hard to ignore that the success of the album will largely be based on whose name is on the cover.