By Assistant Lead Designer Jordan Vongsithi
Jeff Goldblum is widely known as an actor in films such as Jurassic Park and Independence Day. He is also widely known for being the fashion inspiration for every art student’s wardrobe with his high-level self-expressive outfits via his Instagram. But Jeff is so much more than that. In fact, as of late, he’s been honing his craft as a jazz pianist with his band the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
Goldblum’s sophomore album, “I Shouldn’t be Telling You This” brings a sense of maturity in his change of recording style. Goldblum’s debut album was enjoyable for me half-because it is good jazz and half-because it has that Jeff Goldblum charm. With this follow-up project, the conscious decision to record more in a studio setting seems like a way of proving that they don’t need to rely on Goldblum’s personality and witty banter. And they do prove it with this album.
There are eight guest features on this project, most of which are astounding. Sharon Van Etten appears on Let’s Face The Music And Dance, where the instrumentation alone is sexy. The cello that you feel in your stomach is backed by Goldblum’s piano and an extra trumpet to boot. Then, adding in Van Etten’s very intimate, very inviting vocals gives you a sensual sound that makes you feel good inside.
In a change of pace, Inara George’s voice provides a sense of grounding in the upbeat The Sidewinder / The Beat Goes On. Her vocals are solid talent, and pairs well with the sense of urgency that this track provides. Even after you stop listening to this song, the beat gets stuck in your head, almost as if it just goes on.
The next feature on this album, which would make any reasonable listener do a double take, is Miley Cyrus on The Thrill Is Gone / Django. Here, Cyrus’ mezzo-soprano vocals are perfect for the atmosphere of the track, specifically the ballroom jazz energy emitted. It is the audio-equivalent of drinking a martini.
Following Cyrus is Fiona Apple on the post-break-up track Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me, where Apple sings about not having any ill-will towards their ex. The song is a nice blend of fun and relaxing instrumentals and Apple’s beautiful vocals, combining into a lovely anecdote of wanting the best for someone no matter what.
The next two songs are seemingly the intermission of the album. First is Four On Six / Broken English with Anna Calvi, a very serviceable track. The vocals of Calvi are pleasant, the instrumentals are catchy and nice to get into. The overall track is an easy listen. In a bit of the same sense is If I Knew Then featuring Gina Saputo. Sitting at just under two minutes, this is the shortest song on the album, but it is, again, serviceable in what it provides. Saputo’s scatting in the background is subtle yet effective in enhancing the friendly-neighborhood sound of this song.
While all of the tracks discussed stand on their own, the last two mentioned are almost a soul-linked pair. When listened to in order, these easier songs provide a nice break in the album, just before the last two tracks come in and floor you.
Make Someone Happy is the only track with a male guest performer in Grammy Award-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter, and it is, in my opinion, the standout of the whole project. The whole aesthetic of the track is very light and floaty from the instrumentation, which is matched perfectly with Porter’s baritones.
Despite being arguably the highlight of the project, this is merely the penultimate track, as Jeff Goldblum closes with Little Man You’ve Had A Busy Day. Here, Goldblum actually provides the vocals along with piano, and sings to us in a lullaby-esque tone alongside a very melodic and soothing instrumental. It is a very sweet way of finishing off the album, like Jeff Goldblum himself is telling me goodnight and sweet dreams.
As much praise as it deserves, one cannot help but think, as far as jazz is concerned, there is nothing special about this album. Yes, the vocals are all pleasant, and the instrumentation is very nice listen. However, everything has a feeling of being safe, with no attempt at experimenting. While it is not a bad thing to have a traditional jazz album, perhaps a genre with such a rich history needs a little more avant-garde flair.
While this album is not anything to write home about, I think it is an excellent introduction to the genre. Each track is a different flavor of jazz, some being more bluesy while others have that traditional style. There is definitely a lot to like on this album, which I think is what Jeff Goldblum is going for: a fun jazz album with something for everyone. For that, I give I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This a 7.