“Jazz, uh, finds a way,” or so says Jeff Goldblum’s Spotify playlist. Even if this weak attempt at capitalizing on his movie star status makes you cringe, Jeff Goldblum would like you to know that he is a man of many talents. In his newly released album, “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This,” Goldblum introduces to the world 11 new jazzy tracks.
Jeff Goldblum is well known for his acting, having starred prominently in the “Jurassic Park” and “Independence Day” franchises. However, music has long played a big role in his life. He has been playing piano since his childhood and has weekly Los Angeles club appearances with his jazz band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. The influence of his cinematic background in his music is palpable. In his first album, “The Capitol Studio Sessions,” Goldblum relied on his improvisational skills and knack for humor a great deal.
On “I Shouldn’t,” the influence of movies remains, as seen by the existence of the album’s incredibly odd promotional trailer. Why does this trailer exist? It’s hard to tell. With only 12 likes and one comment, it does not seem to have made much of an impact. Despite this, in a move away from “The Capitol Studio Sessions,” Goldblum decides to drag the music of “I Shouldn’t” into the spotlight. Regrettably, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra have offered up an interpretation of jazz that is as light as it is full of air. In his sophomore LP, Goldblum’s piano work especially comes across as uninspired.
Goldblum tickles the ivories, leaving the other instruments for his Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. While the instrumentation isn’t necessarily bad, it fails to really bring anything to the table. Take vocal-less “The Kicker,” for example. Here, Goldblum allows the trumpet to seize center stage early on before the song finally cedes enough room for Goldblum to mess around on an electric piano. This dynamic between Goldblum and his band is present throughout the album, with Goldblum often playing second fiddle to his orchestra.
Seven tracks of “I Shouldn’t” feature guest vocalists, notably Miley Cyrus in the mash-up “The Thrill Is Gone / Django.” Similar to the relationship between Goldblum and his orchestra, Goldblum’s piano fades into the background to make way for his singers. The jazz in “The Thrill Is Gone / Django” seems to be less its own thing rather than a vessel for Cyrus’s raw, powerful voice. In album opener “Let’s Face The Music And Dance,” Sharon Van Etten crawls along like an alley cat in the dark, complemented by a mischievous saxophone. Again, Goldblum has been outshone in his own music. While the piano is at least noticeable in “Let’s Face The Music And Dance,” the track would hum along perfectly fine without it.
It takes Goldblum what seems like forever to finally do something interesting on the piano. “The Cat” lacks a singer but makes up for it in character. With its groovy, funky cover of the Jimmy Smith Quartet’s work, “The Cat” has Goldblum’s fingerprints all over it, feeling like a fun aside to the listener straight from Goldblum himself. Unfortunately for us, that’s the last noticeable song with his personality until the final track, “Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day,” which is sung by none other than Goldblum himself. It’s a sweet take on a jazz classic, presenting itself as a lullaby that one could easily see Goldblum singing to his two young sons.
With such a restricted performance by Goldblum in the album as a whole, why does Goldblum feature so prominently in its promotion? The answer is almost certainly branding. Jeff Goldblum brings a very well-known and well-respected name to the table, and even if he hardly does more than play the piano, it pays to put him on the album cover. Unfortunately, this decision cripples the album artistically. After promising Jeff Goldblum but delivering seemingly everything else instead, the album feels empty. Is “I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This” a scam? Well, maybe, but at least the world got some new elevator music out of it. Stick to your day job, Jeff.