Many of us know him as Dr. Ian Malcolm in Hollywood classic Jurassic Park, but what does the A-list actor have to do with the piano?
Jeff Goldblum has been a pianist since his early teen years and plays mainly jazz piano. At 66 years old in 2018, he came out with his debut album called The Capitol Studios Sessions, and his second album, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This, was released in 2019.
Let’s explore Jeff’s experiences with playing piano, as well as his journey getting into a different part of the entertainment industry – acting.
A Longtime Hobby Separate From Acting
Before starting his acting career, Goldblum was more interested in the white and black keys of a piano. Born in 1952 in a Jewish family, his mother Shirley was a radio host, and his father was a doctor who served in the US Army during the second World War.
His first taste of jazz came from the influence of his late brother Rick, who died of kidney failure in 1971. If he didn’t become a superstar actor, he would have played piano professionally, rather than it being a hobby aside from his acting.
One time before a piano performance, Goldblum said, “I’m from Pittsburgh, and I played piano when I was a kid. I got the idea to play out and about in cocktail lounges when I was, like, 15, and got a job or two.”
He added, “These days and for many years, I just hardly spend a day where I don’t pass a piano in my place and just play for as long as I can.”
After moving to New York City when he was 17 years old, Goldblum finally got his film debut in Death Wish in 1974. Several other roles ensued, before he nabbed roles in The Fly in 1986, and arguably his best known role, Jurassic Park in 1993.
Pursing Piano as a Teen
In an interview with Rolling Stone, he explained his experiences getting into jazz piano as a 14-year-old.
He recounted that he’d “been taking [piano] lessons for a few years” and that he “didn’t know the joys yet of conscientious discipline.”
He continued, “I learned how to start to put together chords and inversions and what scales might go in different things in the right hand and how to improvise. There was something about that that I had a natural enthusiasm for and appetite for. I’d “play for company” when my parents’ friends came over and I remember locking myself in a room one afternoon and getting the Yellow Pages and turning to cocktail lounges around Pittsburgh and I went from A to Z.”
Some of the lounges had a piano and invited him in for a shot, while others simply gave him a flat-out no.
Even though he had an inkling that he wanted to be an actor and 10 years of age, Goldblum was still in love with the piano.
“At 10 years old, I had already decided to myself that I was going to be an actor. I wanted that in the worst way but this piano thing, I just purely got a kick out of it. Over the years, I kept involved with music just for the sheer bushy-tailed fun of it.”
Starting His Own Band
Around the 1990s, when he was already deep in his acting pursuits, Goldblum decided to form a band. Through one of his friends named John Mastro, he brought together some fellow jazz musicians in his local jazz scene.
Their name? The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. The group hardly ever rehearsed until some recent performances, where Goldblum revealed:
“I actually like to play things that I’m surprised that I’m playing, have never played before. I like to cold read stuff and kind of, you know, make it up.”
Watch Goldblum and his band perform a song called “Canteloupe Island” in 2018: