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TChandra - Transportation EPs Music Album Reviews

Perhaps familiar from being sampled by the Avalanches, this New York tween was an inspiring underground star in the early 1980s, a reputation confirmed by this archival collection.
When the Avalanches returned in 2016 after an absence of nearly two decades, a sampled koan lurked at the heart of “Subways,” their swooning comeback: “You walk on the subway/It moves around.” The voice belongs to Chandra Oppenheim, a veteran of the New York downtown scene who attended New York Dolls shows, rubbed elbows with Madonna, opened for Laurie Anderson, played the Mudd Club, staged performance art pieces at the Kitchen, and performed with her band on “Captain Kangaroo.” Not bad for a tween: Chandra was just 12 when she and her band of the same name cut “Subways” and three other songs for a now-coveted 1980 EP.

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Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra - The Capitol Studio Sessions Music Album Reviews

Jeff Goldblum’s debut album, a live-in-the-studio ersatz nightclub affair, is a sincere, classy, and competent homage to the golden age of vocal jazz.

Jeff Goldblum has located fame’s sweet spot. The man veers happily between being a star in lucrative Hollywood franchises and a sort of sentient, benevolent meme. Every sensible person should aspire to this precise degree of celebrity: Goldblum is rich enough not to have to worry about money again, yet he can still wander into a Trader Joe’s without a security detail. He is curiously beloved, but not so beloved that he’s at risk of sustaining paparazzi-induced injury. When Goldblum, with his bespectacled good looks, is summoned to BuzzFeed’s video studio to recite tweets from strangers calling him “daddy,” he seems to genuinely enjoy it. That is the dream, isn’t it?

Goldblum also enjoys an offscreen hobby as an accomplished jazz pianist. He has honed this skill since his childhood, long before films like The Big Chill and The Fly made him a regular in America’s VCRs. The Goldblum Fame Quotient seems ideal for indulging a musical side hustle: He can easily land a deal with Decca Records, yet he won’t be suffocated by public scrutiny. For years, the actor and his ensemble, the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, have been bringing big-band-era jazz standards to clubs in New York and Los Angeles. The Capitol Studios Sessions is billed as his debut album, but it feels more like a variety-show special, with Goldblum feeding off the energy of a studio audience and exchanging flirty banter with guest vocalists like Haley Reinhart. In truth, it’s both: The album was recorded at Hollywood’s Capitol Studios, which Goldblum converted into an ad hoc jazz club, with a boozed-up crowd of fans who do not address him as “daddy.” So we get the freewheeling spirit of a live album and the pristine mix of a proper studio LP.

Goldblum is a skillful and competent pianist, whether he is recreating Red Garland’s arpeggios on the Miles Davis arrangement of “It Never Entered My Mind” or improvising bluesy licks during a synthless rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “Don’t Mess With Mister ‘T.’” He is not a showy player. On most tracks, he seems content to cede the spotlight to virtuosic guests like the trumpeter Till Brönner, whose bebop-inspired solos fill up jaunty renditions of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” and the King Cole Trio’s “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” or the “American Idol” alum Haley Reinhart, whose distinct vibrato is an elegant match for the 1930s standard “My Baby Just Cares for Me.” (That song is performed in the Nina Simone arrangement from 1958.) Imelda May makes several appearances, including a slinky, inspired deconstruction of the Rosemary Clooney hit “Come On-a-My House,” which features the sexiest known enunciation of the word “apricot.”

The only track Goldblum deigns to sing on is also the album’s most overtly comedic moment: “Me and My Shadow,” a spirited duet with Sarah Silverman, who plays Sammy Davis Jr. to Goldblum’s Sinatra. The Rat Pack duo introduced topical references of the 1960s to the Kennedys when they performed the song, and Goldblum and Silverman duly insert stale nods to climate change and the Redskins controversy that seem better suited to a Jay Leno routine.

As an homage to the golden age of vocal jazz, this stuff is classy and sincere enough to put on the playlist at your local Italian restaurant without prompting any odd looks from customers. Even the most tedious material (“This Bitter Earth”) matches the nightclub-circa-1962 mood. To his credit, Goldblum fully commits to the kitschy bandleader guise. But there is a lingering sense that Goldblum’s considerable charm is more suited to the club than the turntable. In between numbers, the actor hogs the spotlight as a suave emcee, and bits like an extended riff on Silverman’s elegant attire just hang awkwardly without visual accompaniment. Much of Goldblum’s banter has a you-had-to-be-there quality, like squinting at a friend’s blurry photos from a party you weren’t invited to. That makes The Capitol Studios Sessions feel more like a document of an experience than the main attraction. Goldblum's most devoted obsessives won't need much persuading to visit his club.


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