Famously eccentric actor Jeff Goldblum has a number of interests and curiosities. Thanks to the Disney+ programme The World According to Jeff Goldblum, Goldblum is able to indulge in his more out-there interests and we, as an audience, get to see him befuddled by the likes of tattoos and RVs. But outside his acting, Goldblum has a passion that he’s turned into a second career: jazz music.
“I’m from Pittsburgh and was one of four kids, so our parents got us music lessons, very wisely and nicely and life-changing-ly,” Goldblum told The New York Times. “I had a facility for it. But I didn’t yet know the joys of discipline”. Instead, Goldblum committed himself to acting, but playing the piano was always a hobby, and then an obsession, and now a full-fledged enterprise thanks to his work with his own jazz band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
“[My teacher] gave me a piece to learn that was kind of jazzy. ‘Alley Cat’ and then ‘Stairway to the Stars’, maybe ‘Deep Purple’, with some interesting harmonies, chords, that were not in the exercises that I’d been doing,” Goldblum recalls of his conversion to jazz. “That did something to my innards. That’s when I got better, because I wanted to learn that thing.”
Most fans didn’t even know that Goldblum was a musician until more recent times. For those who truly want to experience the full scope of Goldblum’s love of jazz piano, there’s no time like the present. That’s because today, you can see Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra play some of the greatest standards of all time as they tour across the world.
For those who might not be convinced of Jeff Goldblum the jazz pianist, just check out his performance of the Herbie Hancock standard ‘Cantaloupe Island’. First appearing on the 1964 album Empyrean Isles, ‘Cantaloupe Island’ is the perfect illustration of Hancock’s approach to jazz: anything can be made harmonically interesting, no matter how simple the actual composition may be.
‘Cantaloupe Island’ is mainly rooted in an F minor vamp, with various lead lines and improvisational solos layered into its relatively basic construction. Despite its simple chord structure, just playing the correct notes to ‘Cantaloupe Island’ is deceptively tricky, making it a favourite for jazz musicians who want the most exciting explorations from the least amount of chord and rhythm changes.
Goldblum gives it his all, staying back as his fellow musicians take the funky arrangement out for a spin. When it comes time for his solo, Goldblum stays rooted in the chord changes, opting for precision and soul rather than flash. His excitement seeing his bandmates bust out killer lead lines is obvious, based on every exalted expression that he can’t help but let wash over his face. The whole track is a great insight into both one of the best jazz songs in the world and the unique persona that is Jeff Goldblum.
Check out Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra playing ‘Cantaloupe Island’ down below.