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Review: Jeff Goldblum Makes New Pittsburgh Memories in One-Night-Only Concert

By SHARON EBERSON

So many versions of Jeff Goldblum were onstage Saturday night, it was hard to keep track of which Jeff was which, except when he was making music with The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, delivering joyful, jazzy tunes by the likes of Erroll Garner and Taylor Swift, in a one-night-only Pittsburgh CLO presentation at the Benedum Center.

Having seen Goldblum and his band in concert twice now, in his 2019 Munhall gig and Saturday night, I have in mind a pie chart, divided into sections, with each piece representing the different Jeffs who appeared during his time on stage.

There’s Hometown Jeff, standing alone preshow, engaging in conversation with the audience. There’s Trivia Jeff, who throughout is the gamemaster of quizzes – some handed to him, sight unseen. At those times, you realize how long he has been away, having left West Homestead at age 17 to become one of Hollywood’s biggest draws. (You can’t fool a Pittsburgher about Mike Lange or Myron Cope, but it also was delightful hearing Wicked’s Wizard read a Wiz Khalifa lyric.)

Jeff Goldblum, with Tawanda and John Storie, says goodbye to the hometown crowd after his concert at the Benedum Center on June 1, 2024.
(Image: Sharon Eberson)

And then there’s Piano Man Jeff, in sync with the skilled musicians of the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, interpreting a wide-ranging jazz and pop playbook, and daring the audience to name each tune and its composer. 

May I say, Pittsburghers, you rock. You were about 95% right on your called-out answers, even when True and False Jeff was having some fun with you. You earned Terrible Towel Twirler Jeff, joined in that cheerleading effort by his bandmates.

For the surprise renditiion of Taylor Swift’s “Lover” (available as a single) and other songs, the band was joined by Los Angeles-based vocalist Tawanda, winner of the 2021 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition. Decked out in a glittering ice-blue gown, she bantered easily with Goldblum while enriching the night with what has been described as “a cloudless alto with a crystalline shimmer, effortless but unfussy jazz feeling.”

Tawanda provided vocals for a stunning version of Misty, by one of Goldblum’s jazz heroes, the Pittsburgh native Garner. Wearing a huge smile, Goldblum seemed to have found a bit of nirvana for as long as the song lasted. 

Hank Mobley’s “A Baptist Beat,” from the album Plays Well With Others, and a pulsating rendition of Lalo Schifirn’s “The Cat” were among the night’s showcases for Goldblum’s skills and marvelous solos by the other six musicians of The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, so named for a Pittsburgh neighbor of the Goldblum family. 

Captivating the Benedum crowd were John Storie on guitar, Alex Frank on upright bass, Joe Bagg on organ, Scott Gilman on saxophone, Ryan Shaw on drums and James King, co-founder of the indie pop/jazz band Fitz and the Tantrums, on sax and flute. 

Goldblum constantly turned the spotlight over to band members, who seemed to be equal parts bemused and supportive as he wandered off-script between numbers.

Long Tall Jeff, who stands out either seated or standing, was dressed in a dijon-mustard-colored corduroy suit, decorated with drawings that included a book cover of Arthur Miller’s Death of Salesman – at one point, Actor Jeff began quoting from Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, then transitioned to questions about the movie version of Streetcar Named Desire.

Musical or verbal references to Hollywood Star Jeff – Jurassic Park/World, Independence Day, Thor: Ragnarok, Wicked, etc. – were rare throughout the night.

Instead, the Pittsburgh CLO presentation was part participation show with a star, part splendid, fun-filled jazz/pop concert. The PCLO Harold Hill of 20 years ago, back at the Benedum Center for the first time since that 2004 production of The Music Man, had returned as Jazz Man Jeff and Forever Pittsburgh Jeff, who soaked in the appreciation from the hometown crowd, and gave it right back in kind.

Jazzy Jeff Goldblum Heads to Pittsburgh, Then Off to Be the Wizard