Jeff Goldblum, professional smooth operator, started his onstage career as a piano player at seedy cocktail lounges in his hometown of Pittsburgh. He still practices an hour every day, sometimes commandeering the ivories in hotel lobbies to stay on top of his craft. On the heels of a three-month residency at Los Angeles club Rockwell, the 64-year-old actor discusses his lifelong musical passion.
Practice, practice, practice
"I’ve been blessed with some biggish hands, but early on, I trained my left hand a bit harder. I would take my thumb and my pinkie, place them right below the keyboard, and stretch my finger and thumb against the keyboard, and do a split with my hand. It’s like hand acrobatics. I enjoy the feel of the keys. I’m tactual."
His favorite instrument
"I have this baby grand Yamaha, which is fantastic. I keep it tuned constantly. [My son] Charlie enjoys it as well—he’ll sit on my lap and bang away on the keys. And I have a Yamaha C6, with a microphone set up around it. It’s the one that they have at the Carlyle as well. Everyone seems to love it, because it’s nice and bright for jazz."
A little help from his friends
"After I play some piano, I’m different for the rest of the day. It brings you into this community that you might not have anything in common with otherwise, and there is a way that you communicate with musicians that you can’t with anyone else. It’s changed my life. It’s a way to have a conversation that goes deep into the blood system."
Music and love
"My wife and I met at the gym, and I invited her to one of my gigs. That’s how it all happened. Her name is Emilie, so I sang Emily, that old standard, to her. At our wedding, I also played a little snippet from The Sound of Music—'Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good. I got quite choked up when I played that."