LJF 2018: Jeff Goldblum

The Hollywood star might have spent more time away from the piano than playing it but he showed there's still room for fun at a jazz gig, says Gareth Thomas

“You like that jazz music that all the kids are going crazy about?” Jeff Goldblum (pictured right by Pari Dukovic, Universal Music) jokingly asked the audience, as he seated himself at a grand piano. With the current jazz scene in London increasingly attracting younger audiences, he wasn’t wrong. But this concert was an entirely different experience.

Jeff Goldblum is perhaps best known for his roles in films such as Jurassic Park and the 1986 remake of The Fly. What a lot of people probably don’t associate with the actor, however, is jazz piano. But Goldblum has been playing since he was a child and the Hollywood star has now released an album of jazz standards - The Capitol Studio Sessions – with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. On Saturday night, they took the album live to Cadogan Hall, for the opening weekend of the EFG London Jazz Festival.

Immediately obvious is Goldblum’s excellent stage presence. There was little to no bravado put into announcing him onto stage, and if you weren’t paying any attention you perhaps wouldn’t have noticed him saunter on in a fedora hat and quirky shirt patterned with a comic book strip down one side. But he’d soon attracted everyone’s attention as he began conversing cheerfully with the audience as though they were all good friends. For the rest of the evening, the group played a range of jazz standards – with some tracks from the album, including Caravan and Straighten Up And Fly Right – whilst Goldblum initiated audience participation between performances with quizzes on movie quotes and cockney rhyming slang with typical charm and charisma.

Goldblum knows his way around the keys, but he’s not the best jazz pianist and isn’t much of a bandleader. It is probably even true that he spent more time engaging with the audience away from the piano – or at other times joyfully swinging on his stool as he praised and swooned over the other musicians – than he spent playing it. Perhaps the real musical star was singer Imelda May, who joined Goldblum and the band at several points throughout the evening and captivated the audience with her smooth and sexy rendition of Come On-A My House.

Despite this comment – for which I ask that Goldblum’s devout cult following do not vilify me – I admit that it would be a mistake to review the concert like any other ordinary jazz gig - it is so important to put things into context. It is likely that a large proportion of the audience were there for the express purpose of seeing Goldblum, and not necessarily to hear great jazz. Nevertheless, Saturday’s concert showed that there is room for fun at a jazz gig and if anyone is capable of that, it is Jeff Goldblum who, at 66-years-old, remains one of the coolest men in Hollywood.

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