Jeff Goldblum’s latest outing with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This, is a warm and bubbly addition to the slate of new autumn releases. The efficient album contains a host of standards pulled from the songbooks of writers like Irving Berlin, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Bono, Adolph Green, and Betty Comden. The delivery of each song is mostly traditional, but the performances retain and capture the inherent charm found in each of these classics.
The album begins on a bit of an oddity, with Sharon Van Etten leading on “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” Van Etten has a smooth, evocative voice, but it does lend itself to more emotionally wrought songs than this Irving Berlin number. Because of this, her voice and the prominent lower octave piano notes give the song an ominous touch. No matter, however, as the song lifts itself into a sparkling piano ditty soon enough. This flows smoothly into “The Sidewinder/The Beat Goes On,” which features Inara George of The Bird and The Bee. Just as the music of “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” matched itself to Van Etten’s vocal style, so too does “The Beat Goes On” echo the light-as-air and slightly sly delivery of George’s vocals.
The album has a few tracks throughout with no featured vocalists. These tracks – “Driftin’,” “The Kicker,” and “The Cat” – are interspersed periodically, as if to act as interludes. The interstitial nature of these tracks, compared to the compelling vocal performances, creates the impression of this album existing as an entire show in a classic jazz lounge. You can almost hear the glasses clink, and the crowds mingle as the next musician prepares for their spotlight.
Miley Cyrus’ guest spot on “The Thrill is Gone” is a bright spot on the album, with the production enabling you to hear the texture of her voice. The only flaw in pairing her with this jazz tune is that her voice sometimes seems too big for any ditty that would appear on this album. Fiona Apple appears on “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me,” which feels like one of the most fitting inclusions on I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This. Her music already veers into jazz frequently, with this version of “Don’t Worry ‘Bout Me,” sounding a bit like the offbeat jazz from her last release.
The female artist who most embodies the classic jazz lounge spirit is Gina Saputo, who scats her way through “If I Knew Then.” The music here is especially delicate so that it mirrors her vocals in a genuinely delightful way. The album closes with two heartwarming tracks in Gregory Porter’s performance of “Make Someone Happy” and Jeff Goldblum’s only vocal performance on the record in “Little Man You’ve Had a Busy Day.” The latter is a fine song, and Goldblum’s vocals are perfectly suitable although they verge a bit too much into the Classic Goldblum inflections at points, which can detract from the earnestness of the lullaby. But those moments and the performance of “Broken English” by Anna Calvi are the only moments here that take you out of the easy listening spell cast by every other track. The distraction of “Broken English” mostly comes from the fact that to anyone familiar with the Marianne Faithfull version, the tempo and delivery here is quite jarring.
In all, this collection of standards is not a collection that will rattle any one’s boots, but it certainly creates an atmosphere and one that is supremely easy to enjoy.