Dallas — Who could have known what to expect from an event with “orchestra” in the title that was fronted by Jeff Goldblum?
There would certainly be some time with him and the legion of fans of Jeff Goldblum, actor and witty talk-show guest. He handled that contingent with effortless grace and humor. He's also a piano player, having played since he was 10, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of his playing; he matched his band of accomplished players. Fine musicians all. It helps that they really get the off-the-wall vibe that Goldblum brings to the stage.
When all was said and done, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra turned in a night of excellent music on Thursday, from “Straighten Up and Fly Right” to “The Beat Goes On” and several jazz songs I didn’t recognize. The event had been planned for the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s outdoor Annette Straus Square stage, but due to weather, it was moved indoors to the Winspear Opera House.
Because of the venue change, patrons had to exchange their section tickets for specific house seats, making a rather long line at the box office. The concert was scheduled for 8 p.m., but when I sat down at 7:30, it was clear that there would be some delay. At about 7:45 a lanky figure ambled in from side stage, drinking a longneck bottle of what I took to be beer. He picked up a mic, started chatting and walked down into the crowd. Jeff Goldblum worked us until 8:20, while people found their seats. Nobody seemed bored or anxious. The show didn’t really start late; Jeff Goldblum started early!
He didn’t leave the stage until the show was over at 10:20, continuing to jive with the audience even during the band’s break. He’s a master at working the crowd. Yes, there were lots of selfies, but he found ways to make that interesting for the whole audience by injecting his natural charm into those occasions.
Annie Ellicott sang on several numbers and her versatile, sultry voice was a pleasant pairing with Goldblum’s humor. The night was most certainly about the music and the band had some fun improvisational moments.
Between the band’s numbers, Goldblum was given sheets of paper with games, jokes and local lore written on them. From there, he solicited audience participation. Watching a starstruck fan cold-read a scene from Bonnie and Clyde with Goldblum was one of many non-musical highlights of the evening. I would have preferred a bit more music but was completely entertained all night.
Having listened to, and enjoyed, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra’s first album, The Capitol Studios Sessions, I was happy to hear that, in one of the few plugs he put in for the night, he had just finished recording a second album.
Many have said that jazz is too often a museum piece, a genre too aloof and set in its ways. Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra proved that, even aside from his celebrity, an evening of a jazz can be something special to audiences who might not be aficionados of the genre.