Celebrities need hobbies too. David Arquette is a keen knitter. Paris Hilton hunts frogs. Ringo Starr thinks he can paint. And many an actor likes to sneak into a local bar or club on their night off-set and knock out a few riffs away from the spotlight’s glare.
The problem often arises when the spotlight turns thataway; when labels, noticing that a jazz covers album by as Z-list a name as Bradley Walsh can produce the bestselling UK album of 2016, start telling them the world needs to hear their inner Slash or Satchmo. That way lies the folly of albums by Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Keanu Reeves’ Dogstar and Russell Crowe’s 30 Odd Foot of Grunts.
And now here’s part-time jazz pianist Jeff Goldblum, bringing his weekly revue residency with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra at LA’s Rockwell Table & Stage into Capitol Studios to siphon his classic scat sounds directly into the stockings of the world’s nans, who liked him in that one with the massive spaceships.
To be fair, he makes a finer showing of it than our Bradley. Although much of the repartee and audience participation that makes their night a Los Feliz hit is lost in the edit, the band certainly evoke a loose, speakeasy atmosphere, with plenty of between-honk bonhomie ricocheting around the players, and Jeff playing a kind of background ringmaster.
Bar an impressive freakout on “I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel to Be Free)”, his piano playing rarely warrants centre stage. But his character – a kind of suave jazz-bar lech – is the heart of the show, introducing guest singers like Imelda May and Haley Reinhart and swapping bizarre butter banter with Sarah Silverman before a played-for-laughs duet of “Me And My Shadow”.
Considering he’s a man who knows his way around a dinosaur or two, Goldblum’s repertoire is virtually Jurassic; the set is full of standards like “Cantaloupe Island” and “My Baby Just Cares For Me”, so evergreen they’re overgrown. But the band deliver them with such affection that their enjoyment is infectious, and there are moments here of real magic: Till Brönner’s tender trumpet lament on “It Never Entered My Mind” is pure heartbreak, and Haley Reinhart sings both syrup and brimstone on a showstopping “Gee Baby (Aint I Good To You)”.
As cash-in celebrity Christmas covers albums go, Goldblum’s has a lot of spark, and even a little soul.
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