Man at His Best

Jeff Goldblum Talks About His First Album, The Capitol Studios Sessions

Hollywood actor Jeff Goldblum has been playing in jazz clubs since the 1990s, but at 66, hes just released his first album.

BY JANE ROCCA | Mar 14, 2019 | Music

Photographs by Pari Dukovic

Hollywood actor Jeff Goldblum is having a renaissance moment, and while he’s best known for blockbuster films like Independence Day, Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park and a quirky part in Thor: Ragnarok, he’s now taking it up a notch with his jazz band and a debut album.

At 66, the three-time married father of two toddlers [Charlie Ocean, 5, and River Joe, 3] is basking in the glory that comes with being a silver fox both on and off the screen.

He’s hanging with fashion’s coolest thanks to his stylist of four years—LA’s Andrew T Vottero who hooks him up with custom gear by Prada and Saint Laurent, but he’s also feeling right at home playing in jazz clubs and keeping that dimly lit bar corner a constant surprise.

Whether it’s a case of planets aligning or years of hard working paying off, Goldblum isn’t taking his renaissance lightly.

For someone who arrived in New York as an eager student in 1970 after leaving home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to pursue a life in theatre and on the stage, it’s taken more than half his lifetime to become the buzz of Hollywood—that’s more than 50 films if you’re counting.

To help him cope with the hysteria surrounding him now, a chirpy Goldblum answers his home phone in Hollywood Hills and is ready to quote the late Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, who lived to 94.

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die,” begins Goldblum, quoting Shaw. “For the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for it’s own sake. Life is no brief candle for me, it’s sort of a splendid torch that I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it shine brightly enough for future generations. Don’t you just love that quote. It’s simply splendid. I can totally relate to it.”

Goldblum doesn’t so much agree that with age comes wisdom, but he offers this: “I am more supremely alive and free than ever in my life,” he says while hushing his youngest son to wait while daddy takes a business call. “Having kids is a life-changing experience and it opens up your heart and my eyes are constantly wide open, but yes, my career is having a moment and I’m good with that. I’d say that I am at a point that a quote by George Bernard Shaw is totally relatable right now.”

If Shaw’s wise words sum up Goldblum’s view on his acting career this far, and his desire for more when most his age are considering retiring, this mid-60s crooner is fine with the camera from all angles.

He’s been playing in jazz bands since the 1990s, but it wasn’t until appearing on the Graham Norton show in London a year ago playing piano for acclaimed American jazz musician Gregory Porter, that those at Decca Records [representing Porter] noticed Goldblum and decided he’d be a studio hit himself.

Goldblum was chuffed and happily signed on the dotted line with his band The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. Together they tackle some of the greatest jazz compositions from Herbie Hancock to Sonny Rollins and riff on his favourite performers to bring an element of improvisation to the final cut.

Goldblum merges an eccentric jazz style with a hint of rock kudos and morphs into a style icon along the way. I mean who else can get away with a double zebra print top and pants—and clashing at that—when playing the piano? And let’s not get started on that Dries Van Noten country and western style shirt that gave him a little Johnny Cash rebel to his jazz heart.

“Some people think that jazz isn’t for them, and they tend to come to the gigs because they have seen me in a movie and are kind of curious,” says Goldblum. “I want explain to people there’s all kinds of jazz, and what we do with my band is play Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins and compositions by the greatest guys.  We do it in a fun way that’s accessible and reminds people of a time that jazz was popular and a social and lively affair.”

The Capital Studio Sessions was recorded live and features ex-American Idol contestant Haley Reinhart, who performs ‘My Baby Cares For Me’ and he duets with comedian Sarah Silverman onMe And My Shadow’—who he affectionately describes as a ‘beautiful Amy Winehouse’.

“We recorded the album with a live audience and I talk to people,” explains Goldblum. “So those who may not initially like jazz because they’ve been exposed to some intellectual, academic or cerebral version of it, should certainly get a kick out of this.”

At the time of making The Capital Studio Sessions, Goldblum tells how Harry Connick Jr swung by during the recording.

“Harry came to one of my shows and we sort of struck up a friendship. We did Independence Day together way back and he also invited me to drop by the studio where he was making his album. It was nice to have him come by and sit in on our sessions too,” says Goldblum.

His love affair with music began early, around the age of 10 when he learned to play the piano. He recalls listening to the Beatles in his bedroom, struck by ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You’. “Then in 1967 there was Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bandand Magical Mystery Tour. I love those albums to pieces,” he says. “I was totally into rock ’n’ roll as a kid. A lot of those artists in that era really made an impression on me, but I moved to New York and fell in love with acting.”

While studying at the Neighborhood Playhouse under acting coach Sanford Meisner in New York, Goldblum managed to get a part in the chorus of a new musical adaptation of Two Gentlemen of Veronain 1971.

From there he landed a wordless role in Robert Altman’s Nashvilleand a memorable line ‘I forgot my mantra’ in Woody Allen’s 1975 film Annie Hall.

“My teacher Sanford told me it takes 20 years of hard work before you can even call yourself an actor and then a lifelong of work if you’re lucky to keep getting better at it,” says Goldblum.

In 1983 his big break came knocking with The Big Chilland later David Cronenberg’s The Fly, which earned him a Saturn Award for Best Actor.

He starred in the British romantic comedy The Tall Man in 1989, went crime thriller in 1992 with Deep Coverand starred alongside Susan Sarandon in Igby Goes Down in 2002.

He has appeared in three films with director Wes Anderson: 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

“As time goes by I am more and more grateful for the opportunities I have had as an actor,” reasons Goldblum, who also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “I am a late bloomer and I really feel I am on the brink of my best stuff in many different areas, including my love of fashion.”

You only need to look at his Instagram account to see his very stylish posts end up showing off his best looks yet—from Prada custom-made suits, slick leopard-inspired printed pants by Isabel Marant and a little Tom Ford magic too. Oh, and he’s hanging with Miuccia Prada at the Venice Film Festival—at an after-party last year for his new film The Mountain—as you do when you have the best Italian fashion houses design shirts and suits just for you.

But while the fashion credentials are the icing on the cake, Goldblum still looks back at his humble beginnings as a little haphazard.

“It was very uncommon the way I broke into acting,” he reflects. “Even before I finished a two-year acting programme in New York, I got into a Broadway show, which was a big hit and won a Tony Award. I was lucky the first couple of jobs I auditioned for I got. I also had some lucky intersections with directors like Woody Allen and Robert Altman. I couldn’t have imagined spending those formative years with better company. Then finally working with Spielberg for Independence Daytook it to another level.  For me personally it was a dream come true to work with Wes Anderson too. I have lots of pinch myself moments when I look back.”

Goldblum is one of four children raised by his mother Shirley, a radio broadcaster who also ran an appliances firm, and father Harold, a doctor. He couldn’t wait to get amongst the buzz of New York and turned up in 1970 with a wide-eyed hunger to give it a go.

“New York in the early ’70s was the mecca. I was hanging at jazz clubs and had the best time there,” he says. “I was full of adventure and wanderlust. I was exposed to great schools and teaching and I saw lots of music including some experimental stuff by the great Wayne Shorter. I became friends with Tom Pierson, who went on to do film scores for Woody Allen’s Manhattanand he took me to see some great bands. That stuff knocked me out and it planted the seed I wanted to stick with jazz regardless of what happened with acting.”

Goldblum applies the same philosophy to acting as he does to his jazz sessions—relying on improvisation and gut feeling to drive the message home. “You have to be present, in the moment and think on your feet,” he says.

The happily married actor, who tied the knot with his wife Emilie Livingston in 2014, says he’s proud of all he’s achieved and grateful he met his wife 14 years after divorcing the high-profile Hollywood actress Geena Davis. Theirs was an intriguing Hollywood moment for sure—even making the cover of GQin the 1980s.

The pair met in Yugoslavia on the set of the horror-comedy Transylvania 6-500 when Davis was in her late 20s and Goldblum was in his early 30s. They also starred in The Flyand Earth Girls Are Easybut their Hollywood romance wasn’t to last.

Word has it Goldblum invited his wife Emilie to watch him play the piano at a jazz show with Grammy award-winning singer Gregory Porter. While playing the piano, he asked her on stage to perform some contortionist moves—she could certainly manage it given she was a former Canadian Olympic gymnastic champion and then working as a magician’s assistant at the time.

“I’m having the time of my life. I couldn’t wish for a better storyline,” he says. “I have a loving wife and we’re just riding the good waves. Children certainly change your perspective, and I am thrilled I have two beautiful kids who teach me so much about life each day and that it’s not all about me.”

From: Esquire Singapore