Easily one of America’s most charming, affable, and delightfully cerebral celebrities, Jeff Goldblum seems delighted to gush about Houston and his upcoming appearance here with his heralded jazz band, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra.
His group plays the Jones Hall for the Performing Arts Friday, September 20, as part of the Society for the Performing Arts special series. (Tickets are still available.)
Though he’s best known for a career that spans more than 40 years and memorable roles in The Fly, Independence Day, and the Jurassic Park franchise, Goldblum’s music run has proved far more than a simple vanity project. His band’s debut album, The Capitol Studios Sessions, scored No. 1 on Billboard’s Jazz Albums and Traditional Jazz Albums charts in 2018.
Fresh off that success, and with a new album, coyly titled, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This, dropping November 1, Goldblum is ready to tickle the ivories (he’s a deft and accomplished piano player) alongside his band and members of Houston’s Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
He’s also ready to share Houston’s charms with the world via his new National Geographic TV show, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, which will be released on streaming service Disney+ on November 12.
“I’m Jeff, or Junebug, whatever you prefer,” Goldblum exclaims to CultureMap, by way of introduction. And with that, we’re off.
CultureMap: Congratulations on the new album and TV show. It’s been quite a summer for you.
Jeff Goldblum: Yes, yes, it’s been a wild summer! We were just in Houston shooting for my new show. It’s a docu-series by National Geographic. It’s taken me all over the place.
CM: We’re thrilled that you’re featuring our fair city.
JG: Yes, and what a fair city! We were there for a couple of days shooting at NASA and Johnny Dang’s grill emporium. Houston, well ... I had my own special experience.
CM: So can you share with us some of Houston — according to Jeff Goldblum?
JG: Well, of course it’s the birthplace of the great Wes Anderson, with whom I did The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs. He’s fantastic, and I like thinking about seeing all of Houston through his eyes.
CM: He’s a local treasure. How was your experience at NASA?
JG: Oh my, those people I was there to see — have you ever been to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab? It’s remarkable! I met a couple of astronauts, it was really spectacular. Then, on the whole other end of the spectrum, I had Johnny Dang, and all the hip-hop people he made grills for, and that was spectacular, also.
CM: Here in Houston, there’s a buzz that you’ll be playing with kids from the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
JG: Yes, yes! They’re going to join us on a song — like, four to six horn players. And we’re not gonna rehearse before, we’re just going to cook something up. They tell me they know this particular song that you’ll see. It’s gonna be a lot of fun.
CM: Speaking of fun during these shows, you’ve played at the Los Angeles club, Rockwell Table and Stage, since the ’90s, and you always intersperse some comedy and audience participation during the gig. Can we expect those kinds of off-the-cuff interludes in Houston?
JG: Yes, I never know exactly what I’m going to do, it’s all uncharted. I sometimes find myself doing it before the show as people are streaming in and in between the songs. And then we’ll play from my new album, which I just adore.
CM: Regarding your music, what’s it like being a celebrated actor who then scores No. 1 on the Billboard music charts?
JG: Well, it’s amazing and unexpected — very delightful — I am thrilled for all the people I play with. I never thought I’d have an album or have what could be called a career in music, anyway. I had my heart set on being an actor all this time, and I’m still on the threshold of my best work. I believe it’s because I’ve been conscientious about it and luckily kept getting chances.
But this thing with music: I loved it when I was a kid. I started playing cocktail lounges in Pittsburgh here and there when I was 15. About 30 years ago, I started playing out and about just for the fun of it. And it sort of organically developed from that so I kept getting better, and the band kept getting more specific, and we played every week whenever I was in town.
CM: Back to your acting: Fans love you for roles ranging from The Fly to Jurassic Park and, most recently, The Mountain. What are some of your favorites?
JG: Let’s see … I think I’m doing my better work more recently. I had a wonderful time with Mr. Steven Spielberg on those couple of movies. I like The Tall Guy, and those Wes Anderson movies. I think my most interesting stuff is ahead of me.
CM: With your best work ahead of you: We know you can act, sing, and play. Can we expect a live, one-man show, a la Hugh Jackman, down the line?
JG: Gosh, have I ever done a one-man show? I do love to play, and I love people ... but a one-man show? You think?
CM: Jeff, a one-man Jeff Goldblum show would sell out across the country.
JG: Really … ? [Intrigued, Goldblum trails off, deep in thought of the possibilities].
Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra perform at Friday, September 20, at 8 pm at the Jones Hall for the Performing Arts, 615 Louisiana St. For tickets, visit The Society for the Performing Arts online or call 713-227-4772.