Jeff Goldblum
and the
Mildred Snitzer Orchestra

Café Carlyle
New York, NY
While Jeff Goldblum is an engaging film and stage star, you might not know he has also been busy playing jazz gigs on the west coast.  Obviously, he seems to have the time of his life at the keyboard and coming a close second are his star chats with a captured audience.  He shows it off at the Café Carlyle with four energetic musicians—vibrant Zane Musa on tenor saxophone, John Storie on guitar, bassist Tim Emmons and Kenny Elliott on drums.  This is the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra (apparently a droll salute to an old family friend).

The question is, with his love for jazz and talking, what do you get with a Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra show?  A jazz gig?  A chat fest?  A quiz contest?  Goldblum comes closest when he quips, “It’s like a cruise ship.”  A half-hour before the show begins, cool and lanky Goldblum bops into the room, stopping for a word or more with customers he may or may not know.  He points out familiar faces, like musician John Pizzarelli and his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, actors Fisher Stevens and Ed Norton.  He suggests that everyone join in to sing “Unforgettable” to TV’s Al Roker and wife Deborah Roberts, who are celebrating their anniversary.

Leisurely approaching the stage, Goldblum continues with his personal warm-up/opener, adding lengthy recurring “True or False” quizzes and movie trivia.  Verbally, he can hardly be contained.  At any point Goldblum will suddenly jump up, run around to the front of the piano and ask who knows the name of the character played by Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront.

The quintet does its jazz thing with straight-ahead bebop standards like “Epistrophy” (Thelonious Monk/Kenny Clarke), Charlie Parker’s  “Scrapple from the Apple,” and a non-stop, samba-inflected rhythmic jazz favorite, “Caravan” (Juan Tizol/Duke Ellington/Irving Mills).   Goldblum’s piano talent is passable with an aggressive touch.  He seems immersed in the music, eyes dreamy, bopping his head, his body loose and weaving.  After reciting the lyrics to “Stella by Starlight” (Victor Young and Ned Washington), he moves to the piano to sing a deconstructed rendition, demonstrating that his vocals are a notch below his piano skills. 

There is a highpoint in the show, although it is not Goldblum’s.  Guest singer Hilary Gardner delivers a poignant moment with Vernon Duke’s “Autumn in New York” followed by “The Great City,” her own musical nod to New York.

If you’re in the mood for trivia games with a celebrity, you’ll like this show.  If you want a jazz show, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Elizabeth Ahlfors
Cabaret Scenes
September 16, 2014