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Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, EFG London Jazz Festival, Cadogan Hall, live review

If you’ve turned on the TV or radio over the past few weeks, you can’t help but notice that Jeff Goldblum has released his debut album The Capitol Studios Sessions. The Hollywood legend has a long history with jazz music but incredibly it’s taken him until the age of 66 to actually release an album. Accompanied by his band The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra – John Storie (guitar), Alex Frank (Bass), Kenny Elliott (drums), Joe Bagg (organ) and James King (tenor sax) – Goldblum recorded a live album of jazz standards that included guest appearances by Sarah Silverman, Imelda May, Hailey Reinhart and Till Brönner. While he’s on this side of the pond, Goldblum (along with his orchestra) are playing a handful of live shows and yesterday afternoon he took to the stage at London’s Cadogan Hall to perform the first of two shows that day as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.

Seeing Goldblum live was quite the surreal experience. The star was happily chatting to the audience from the stage when an announcement went off telling us we had to evacuate the building. Bewildered, Goldblum tried to find out what was going on and as we started to make our way out the venue, we were informed that it was a false alarm. That delayed the start of the set by around 10 minutes but once everyone was seated again, Goldblum and The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra kicked things off with Nostalgia in Times Square.

Getting into the groove of things, the music was put on pause following that song for around 15 minutes while Goldblum brought up members of the audience to read out jokes from Edinburgh Festival Fringe, that his music director had handed him, to see if he and his band understood them. It was all a little bizarre as one fan explained what a TARDIS was while another detailed what ‘jumpers for goalposts’ meant. While it was funny, and Goldblum is an undeniably charismatic entertainer, I was keen for him to get back to the music.

Imelda May, who appears on Goldblum’s album, made several appearances throughout the show and she was a real highlight. She had great chemistry with Goldblum, who struggled to understand her Irish accent at times, but her voice was killer. Come On-a-My House was an early highlight as was the powerful rendition of This Bitter Earth in the second part of the set. The first half ended with Straighten Up and Fly Right, and straight after Goldblum offered to have photos on the stage with fans. He got through as many as he could during the intermission but had to leave some disappointed when it was time to resume the show.

The second half opened with Cantaloupe Island, the opening instrumental from Goldblum’s album, and watching Goldblum behind the piano was pretty magical. He’s a very skilled player and even in the moments when the focus is on other members of the band, such as tenor sax player James King who was terrific, you could still feel him leading his fellow musicians. Just as the second half got going, things were stopped again when the musical director handed Goldblum another piece of paper, this time to conduct a London-themed quiz with the audience.

Another 10 minutes or so passed, then the music resumed once again and Imelda May returned to the stage to accompany the band. Highlights included I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free) and Caravan, which featured a great solo by King. When the band got into full flow, it made me wish the minutes that had been squandered with audience interaction had been omitted and more music added in their place.

Goldblum is an incredibly gifted and charismatic entertainer, very ably assisted by his remarkably talented band. The stop-start nature of the set felt a little frustrating to me and it highlighted that there was a large number of people in the audience to see Goldblum the star rather than Goldblum the musician. That can often be the problem when an actor steps into another field, and there were definitely some hardcore fans there that quite possibly had never even heard any of Goldblum’s music. When the music was flowing, Goldblum and his band impressed, but for me there wasn’t enough music over the two hours and too much interaction.

Performance date: 17th November 2018 Buy The Capitol Studios Sessions

Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip Ellwood-Hughes
Pip is the Editor of Entertainment Focus and the Managing Director of agency Piñata Media.

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