meta-scriptJeff Goldblum's Musical Influences: How Frank Sinatra, "Moon River" & More Jazz Greats Inspired The Actor-Turned-Musician |
Jeff Goldblum Press Photo 2023
Jeff Goldblum

Photo: Sela Shiloni


Jeff Goldblum's Musical Influences: How Frank Sinatra, "Moon River" & More Jazz Greats Inspired The Actor-Turned-Musician

On the heels of releasing his third jazz project, 'Plays Well With Others,' Jeff Goldblum reveals the artists, songs and albums that influenced the actor to pursue a separate path in music.

GRAMMYs/Mar 29, 2023 - 03:46 pm

Jeff Goldblum has enjoyed a prolific (and massive) career as one of Hollywood's most beloved actors. But long before making it as a film and television star, he enjoyed an entirely different passion: American standards and jazz.

Now, as Goldblum says, he's "a humble student" of the genres. Four years after releasing his first jazz album with the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra (2018's The Capitol Studios Sessions), the actor-turned-musician unveiled his third project, Plays Well With Others, on March 24. 

Across the EP's six tracks, Goldblum and the orchestra deliver inventive renditions of songs like the Frank Sinatra standard "In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning" and Irving Berlin's "Don't Fence Me In." Though he's already proven that he plays well with others — his previous two releases have featured the likes of Miley Cyrus, Fiona Apple and Hailey Reinhart — Goldblum recruited a disparate list of guest stars including pop star Kelly Clarkson and Brazilian singer/songwriter Rodrigo Amarante for his latest set.

In celebration of the EP's release, Goldbum took inside the songs, artists and albums that made the biggest impact on him — and ultimately lead to a whole new career. 

Erroll Garner

My dad was a fan of his, and he's one of the first pianists I heard. He used to sit on a telephone book to play piano. What a genius he is. I've been listening to his recording of "Eldorado" from his 1972 album Gemini. Ooh, how about that one?

Henry Mancini's "Moon River"

That was one of the first songs my first piano teacher, Tommy Emmel, gave me the sheet music for. I really sat and worked on that, and I started to get better at playing by playing that song.

When it comes to Henry Mancini, I saw the first run of The Pink Panther with my sister and it made a big impact on me. [*Sings* The Pink Panther theme]. That killed me. 

Frank Sinatra

I have always loved Frank Sinatra. It was in his swimming pool at his former home in Palm Springs where we shot a photograph for the cover of my second album. We put a piano in the middle of his pool!

He's such a good actor, and the gift of his voice. He acts all of these songs so deeply, originally and spontaneously.

Sinatra at the Sands

I've been listening to Sinatra at the Sands a lot lately. What an album. He's with the Count Basie Orchestra, conducted by a very young Quincy Jones. It has all sorts of amazing moments: "Shadow of Your Smile," which he introduces by saying 'Here's a brand new song,' which is amazing. "One for My Baby" is another one, the way he does it on that record is unbelievable with his spoken introduction kills me.

This version of "You Make Me Feel So Young" is one I've listened to several times while I was filming the upcoming Wicked movie with Ariana Grande, Cynthia Erivo and Michele Yeoh. I was listening to a lot of music to stimulate me even more, and this album and that song was one of them. 

Jennifer Warnes' "It Goes Like It Goes"

It's originally from the movie Norma Rae from 1979 that Sally Field won the Oscar for. The title song is sung by Jennifer Warnes. It knocks me out. I get weepy, rich tears of delicious joy and sorrow.

Thelonis Monk

Right around the time I was taking piano lessons, Thelonis Monk was on the cover of TIME magazine. I checked him out, and developed a lifelong love of what he did and what a genius he is. 

Brian Stokes Mitchell and Audra McDonald's "Wheels of a Dream"

This is from the musical Ragtime, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. When I hear this song lately, it reminds me of the time I worked with Brian Stokes Mitchell [on Fox's hit TV series "Glee"]. We actually played a married couple who was raising our child, played by Lea Michele. As a matter of fact, the week we did that show, we went to the Capitol Records building to record a duet of "You're the Top."

Peggy Lee's "Is That all There Is?"

That song kills me. I first heard it in 1969 when it first came out. Randy Newman actually did the orchestral arrangement.

Glenn Gould

My bandmate and coach, Alex Frank, who plays the bass in our band, turned me on to Glenn Gould, who is from Toronto where my wife is actually from. I've been watching some documentaries on him that I've been eating up. What a great guy he was; a masterful, interesting and original artist. 

Alex's dad was involved in music prominently, so when he was a kid, he once went to a rehearsal of Glenn Gould's because his father had some relationship with the orchestra leader. It was a rehearsal and in the middle of it Glenn Gould said, "Stop, stop, I can't continue. I need a paper bag." 

So Alex, who was 10 at the time, went around the corner to get a paper bag. When he came back with it, Glenn Gould took off his shoes and socks and put his bare feet in this paper bag and said, "Now I'm ready" and continued his rehearsal. Why did he do that? I don't know. 

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Henry Mancini in a recording studio
Henry Mancini

Photo: A. Schorr/ullstein bild via Getty Images


10 Essential Henry Mancini Recordings: From "Moon River" To The 'Pink Panther' Theme

Composer, arranger, conductor and pianist Henry Mancini won 20 GRAMMY Awards over his legendary career. On what would be his 100th birthday, revisit 10 timeless Henry Mancini compositions.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 01:34 pm

Henry Mancini had a gift for melodies of an ethereal, almost supernatural beauty.  

His prolific discography — albums of jazzy orchestral pop, dozens of film and television soundtracks — established him as a cultural icon and transformed the role that melody and song played in the art of movie narrative. Once you encounter a Henry Mancini tune, it’s almost impossible not to start humming it.

A composer, arranger, conductor and pianist of tireless discipline, Mancini won a staggering 20 GRAMMY Awards and was nominated 72 times. All of his wins — including the first-ever golden gramophone for Album Of The Year at the inaugural 1959 GRAMMYs — will be on display at the GRAMMY Museum to honor his centennial birthday, April 16. 

To mark what would be his centennial birthday, Mancini's children will travel to Abruzzo, Italy — where Mancini’s parents migrated from. And on June 23, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra will present a program of his music with a gallery of guest stars including singer Monica Mancini, the maestro’s daughter. Out June 21, The Henry Mancini 100th Sessions – Henry Has Company will feature a new recording of "Peter Gunn" conducted by Quincy Jones and featuring John Williams, Herbie Hancock and Arturo Sandoval.

Although Mancini died in 1994 at age 70, his compositions remain timeless and ever-relevant. Read on for 10 essential Henry Mancini compositions to cherish and rediscover.  

"Peter Gunn" (1958)

In 1958, Mancini was looking for work and used his old Universal studio pass to enter the lot and visit the barber shop. It was outside the store that he met writer/director Blake Edwards and got the chance to write the music for a new television show about private detective Peter Gunn. 

Seeped in West Coast Jazz, Mancini’s main theme sounds brash and exciting to this day – its propulsive beat and wailing brass section evoking an aura of cool suspense. The "Peter Gunn" assignment cemented his reputation as a cutting-edge composer, and the accompanying album (The Music From Peter Gunn) won GRAMMYs in the Album Of The Year and Best Arrangement categories.

"Mr. Lucky" (1959)

Half of the "Peter Gunn" fan mail was addressed to Mancini. As a result, CBS offered Blake Edwards a second television show, as long as the composer was part of the package. Edwards created "Mr. Lucky," a stylish series about the owner of a floating casino off the California coast. 

1959 was an exhausting year for Mancini, as he was scoring two shows at the same time on a weekly basis. Still, his music flowed with elegance and ease. The "Mr. Lucky" ambiance allowed him to explore Latin rhythms, and the strings on his wonderful main theme shimmer with a hint of yearning. It won GRAMMY Awards in 1960 for Best Arrangement and Best Performance by an Orchestra.

"Lujon" (1961)

As part of his contract with RCA Victor, Mancini was committed to recording a number of albums featuring original compositions in the same velvety jazz-pop idiom from his television work. "Lujon" is the standout track from Mr. Lucky Goes Latin, a collection of Latin-themed miniatures that luxuriate in a mood of plush languor.

 Inspired by the complex harmonics of French composer Maurice Ravel, "Lujon" steers safely away from lounge exotica thanks to the refined qualities of the melody and arrangement.

"Moon River" (1961)

Performed on a harmonica, the main melody of "Moon River" is nostalgic to the bone, but also life affirming. A majestic string section makes the music swoon, like gliding on air. And the harmonies in the vocal chorus add gravitas — a touch of humanity. 

It took Mancini half an hour to write "Moon River," but the Breakfast at Tiffany’s anthem made him a global superstar. Among the many artists who covered the song, pop crooner Andy Williams turned it into his personal anthem. Mancini won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and GRAMMY Awards for Record Of The Year, Song Record Of The Year and Best Arrangement. The album soundtrack earned two additional gramophones.

Theme from Hatari! (1962)

After two failed attempts with different composers, legendary director Howard Hawks invited Mancini to write the score for Hatari! — the wildly episodic but oddly endearing safari film he had shot in Tanganyika with John Wayne. Mancini jumped at the opportunity, and Hawks gave him a few boxes from the trip that contained African percussive instruments, a thumb piano and a tape of Masai tribal chants. Two chords from that chant, together with a slightly detuned upright piano formed the basis for the movie’s main theme. 

Mancini’s sparse arrangement and melancholy melody conspired to create one of the most gorgeous themes in the history of film.

"Days of Wine and Roses" (1962)

Throughout the decades, Mancini provided musical accompaniment to Blake Edwards’ filmography, which switched from slapstick comedy to stark melodrama. There is a perverse beauty to the theme of Days of Wine and Roses — a movie about a couple of lifelong alcoholics — as the lush choral arrangement seems to glorify the innocence of better times. 

It won an Academy Award for Best Original Song — Mancini’s second Oscar in a row — and three GRAMMYs: Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Background Arrangement.

"The Pink Panther Theme" (1963)

Directed by Edwards and starring Peter Sellers as part of an ensemble cast, the original Pink Panther was a frothy caper comedy that had none of the manic touches of comedic genius that Sellers would exhibit in subsequent entries of the franchise. It was Mancini’s ineffable main theme that carried the movie through.

Jazzy and mischievous, Mancini wrote the melody with the light-as-a-feather playing of tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson in mind. It won GRAMMYs in three categories: Best Instrumental Arrangement, Best Instrumental Compositions (Other Than Jazz), and Best Instrumental Performance – Non-Jazz.

Charade (1963)

Mancini’s gift for cosmopolitan tunes and jazzy arrangements found the perfect vehicle in the score for Stanley Donen’s Charade — a droll Hitchcockian thriller shot in Paris and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. 

The main theme is a waltz in A minor, and opens with pulsating percussion. When the central melody appears, it evokes a melancholy reflection and a certain thirst for the kind of globetrotting adventure that the film delivers in spades. It was Johnny Mercer’s favorite Mancini melody, and he wrote exquisite lyrics for it. 

The best version probably belongs to jazz singer Johnny Hartman, who released it as the opening track of his 1964 album I Just Dropped By To Say Hello.

Two For The Road (1967)

Friends and family remember Mancini as a humble craftsman who ignored the trappings of fame and focused on the discipline of work. In 1967, after Audrey Hepburn cabled to ask him about writing the music for the Stanley Donen film Two For The Road, Mancini agreed, but was taken aback when the director rejected his initial theme. Leaving his ego aside, he returned to the drawing board and delivered a lovely new melody – and a spiraling piano pattern seeped in old fashioned tenderness.

"Theme from The Molly Maguires" (1970)

Even though Mancini enjoyed most accolades during the ‘60s, his protean level of inspiration never wavered. In 1970, he was brought in to rescue the soundtrack of Martin Ritt’s gritty secret societies drama The Molly Maguires, about Irish-American miners rebelling against their mistreatment in 19th century Pennsylvania. 

The main theme makes time stand still: a sparse arrangement that begins with a solitary harp, until a recorder ushers in a haunting, Irish-inspired melody. The score reflected a more restrained Mancini, but was still intensely emotional.

Jeff Goldblum's Musical Influences: How Frank Sinatra, "Moon River" & More Jazz Greats Inspired The Actor-Turned-Musician

Liz Gillies performs
Liz Gillies performs at the 91st annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting in 2023

Photo: Scott Gries/NBC via Getty Images


Liz Gillies Shares The Holiday Tunes That Make Her Feel Merriest

"I just remember being completely enveloped in Christmas music," the songstress says. Her collaboration with Seth MacFarlane, 'We Wish You the Merriest' is "as close to a classic feeling, warm, fuzzy, nostalgic Christmas album you’re gonna get."

GRAMMYs/Dec 22, 2023 - 02:28 pm

With a new album of holiday cheer, We Wish You the Merriest, under their belts, Liz Gillies and Seth MacFarlane have become one of the most popular recording duos of the season. Yet their sonic story goes back a decade.

Gillies, who starred as Fallon Carrington on "Dynasty," met the "Family Guy" at a karaoke bar and noticed they were singing in similar styles.  She was singing her go-to: Julie London’s "Cry Me a River" and recalls MacFarlane singing Frank Sinatra.

"We immediately realized that we both shared a deep love and affinity for this music," Gilles told by phone about their mutual admiration for jazz and crooning styles of the 1940s and 50s.

She started joining his Los Angeles concerts at the Catalina Jazz Club in 2014/2015 and then went with him on tour. "When you find somebody that you share that kind of common ground with and you have great chemistry with –  it sort of feels like you'd be doing a disservice not to explore it," she says.

They released a joint un-official album, Songs From Home, in spring 2021 and fans quickly clambered for a Christmas album. In November, Gillies and MacFarlane finally delivered.

Their 13-track We Wish You the Merriest features many classics — from "Frosty the Snowman" to "That Holiday Feeling" — sung in the styles of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. "This is as close to a classic feeling, warm, fuzzy, nostalgic Christmas album you’re gonna get these days," Gilles says.

"Seth is sort of like this youthful energy, as much as he loves these older songs. I truly present myself like a 50 to 60 year old woman from 1950," says 30-year-old Gillies. "So onstage it really works. We love a lot of the same movies. A lot of the way we banter and our jokes are very similar." 

Singing has long been a part of Gillies' repertoire, beginning with her Broadway debut at 15 years old in "13: The Musical" alongside Ariana Grande. They both went on to star and sing on Nickelodeon’s "Victorious" and have sustained a friendship ever since. Gillies even appeared in Grande’s "Thank U, Next" music video.   

They recently went viral for their Halloween costume reveal. "We already know what we’re doing next year," Gillies teased. "We have this all mapped out. It's been a fun, new tradition that we started and it's just a blast. It lets us be wacky, free and creative."  

Asked whether they’d ever perform together again – Gillies said it’s all about timing. "If there’s an opportunity that makes sense, we would love to be on stage together, create something together. We're always talking about it," she said.  

Right now, the focus has been her partnership with MacFarlane.  

Recording a Christmas album was especially meaningful to Gillies, who  remembers listening to these classics during her childhood  in New Jersey. The holidays were "the most important time of year" for Gilles' music-loving family. "I just remember being completely enveloped in Christmas music," she recalls.

"[Holiday music] was very much a part of my childhood and a part of my upbringing in my education, musically," Gillies notes. "The fact that I'm even on a Christmas record — let alone with this amazing orchestra and with these arrangements — is pretty surreal for me. 

"They feel so familiar to me," she continues. "That's why I was happy to do a more classic album because I don't think I would succeed doing a pop Christmas album. I wouldn't know where to start." 

In honor of We Wish You the Merriest, Gillies shares some of her favorite holiday songs and why.  

"The Christmas Waltz" - Frank Sinatra 

"The Christmas Waltz" is one my grandma always would sing. She sang it the other night as well — I just had my family Christmas party this past weekend. We have so many traditions and so many beautiful memories and things that we do at parties during the holidays. 

I know it's Seth’s favorite Christmas song, I believe, and it's one of mine as well. Several members of my family play the piano and after dinner and before dessert, we always went over to the piano. [This happened] since I was a kid, and generations before I existed sang Christmas carols. 

"Winter Wonderland" - James Taylor 

I remember my dad having this huge stack of CDs and the first one always that went in was actually James Taylor's Christmas album, believe it or not. The first song on that album is "Winter Wonderland." Once that started, I would get a very Christmassy feeling in my house and I would know that it was Christmas time. 

"The Christmas Song" - Nat King Cole

To me, the quintessential Christmas song is "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole. That is the song I think Nat has, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful voices of all time. That song, no matter where I am when I hear it, I stop.   

"Sleigh Ride'' - Ella Fitzgerald

That's another one that I really love. It's so effortless, jazzy and fun. I tried to emulate little parts of each of these [songs] in our record although our arrangements are different.  

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" - Frank Sinatra  

Judy [Garland’s version] is very beautiful and very sad, so I don't listen to it as much. Frank’s is almost haunting. I believe it starts acapella. It’s so beautiful and his voice sounds so rich and velvety. I love that version of that song.  

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Photo: Lauren Kim


With 'Bewitched,' Icelandic Singer Laufey Is Leaving Jazz Neophytes Spellbound

On 'Bewitched,' Laufey isn't out to preach or lecture about jazz's importance; the vocalist believes it can ensnare new disciples by its own merits.

GRAMMYs/Sep 7, 2023 - 08:13 pm

Why is jazz so walled off to younger people? Laufey spends a lot of time pondering this question. And part of it comes down to the ways Gen Z might second-guess themselves.

"Like, how do you consume jazz music?" the Icelandic singer asks rhetorically. "Do you go to a jazz club? Do you have to be 18? Do you have be 21? When do you clap? How do you dress?

"There are so many barriers to entry," adds the 24-year-old, mononymous artist, whose full name is Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir. "It seems like something that's for an older, more refined, more educated set of society."

Which is something of a tragedy for music — especially given that youngsters made some of its most resonant works, and that much of jazz was meant for everybody. With that in mind, Laufey isn't out to shove the music down people's throats. She wants to leave them Bewitched.

That's the title of Laufey's second album, due out Sept. 8. Characterized by a more laid-back, accessible approach than its predecessor — 2022's Everything I Know About Love — the set is charming and companionable, from "Dreamer" to "From the Start" and its twilit, cinematic title track.

Read on for an interview with Laufey about her approach to Bewitched, the foundational influences of Astrid Gilberto and Chet Baker, and dismantling the wall between the youth generation and America's Music.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Tell me how your creative evolution led to Bewitched.

I like to think it was written between Los Angeles and London — New York too, but mostly between those two places. And I touched a lot on that in the lyrics. This is my second album [and]  a return to my musical roots. I'm really leaning deep into my jazz and classical roots.

For my first EP [2021's Typical of Me] and album, I always had this goal and dream of bringing jazz music back to my generation. I hadn't seen many examples of doing that. So, I was just kind of seeing how far I could take it — how far I could go into jazz without scaring off Gen Z.

What I found after my first album was that the fans seem to mostly drift toward the songs that resembled jazz standards — ones that were recorded with a symphony orchestra. So, for this album, I had the confidence to just jump straight into that, with no fear that I would lose Gen Z.

The singles that have come out have been some of my most organic music, in that sense. And it's been the most well-received, which is really wonderful. It's such a great sign that music is moving in a direction where I can just be anything.

It's a love album, and touches on everything between love and heartbreak. My last album was a little bit hopeless romantic: Oh, I'll never fall in love. And this one's kind of like, OK, I'm learning a little more about love.

It's a shame how marginalized, niche and walled-off jazz can be. It's one of my greatest pleasures in life.

I mean, that's the whole reason I'm doing this.

But Gen Z might offer light at the end of the tunnel. Where does jazz sit within your age group?

I think there's been a space via social media, like TikTok. In the past few years, there's been so much more music introduced, because it's kind of introduced to you without you seeking it out.

I think Gen Z is a generation of really, really open-minded individuals, especially when it comes to music. I've found that friends and kids this age will listen to anything, really, as long as they can find some sort of line of relatability. That's what they care about.

Even though I'm writing songs that sometimes sound like old jazz standards, the lyrics are very modern; they're my personal experiences from this day and age. I think that relatability is what connects young listeners.

I started this project during Covid, and I found people wanted to find an escape from this bleak reality. We all had to stay home from high school and college; I graduated online, from Berklee.

I think we just wanted to be reminded of a time that wasn't masks and Zoom and whatever. Our escape was kind of found through music. My brainchild during that time was this kind of cinematic, jazzy landscape of music that felt like it didn't belong to 2020. It belonged to a different time.


*Bewitched* album art. Photo: Gemma Warren

Tell me more about how Bewitched reflects your roots. I'm sure there are all kinds of subliminal reflections of the music you love.

I have a jazz standard on the album, "Misty," that I referenced a couple of times on my first album.I wanted to do it in the most classic way, and we recorded it live in one take with a trio.

I'm a huge Chet Baker fan. Even in the first single off the album, "From the Start," I'm borrowing some Chet Baker licks in the scatting.

I grew up playing cello; my twin sister plays violin on it as well. There are a lot of classical influences that I dug into — a lot of Ravel and Mendelssohn and Ravel and Dvorak, which is really fun to hide in there. Because if you know, you know — and if you don't, it's just a fun, new treat.

Back to the Chet Baker point, the way that he sings is kind of like a trumpet. I really took on more of that vocal style on this album — more held back. I used to think [in terms of] vibrato and legato, and I still do, but I think I really [wanted] to emphasize the lyric and storytelling.

This style of singing that's a little more spoken word, a little more bossa nova — I think that really lends well to the songwriting. Bossa nova was also a big influence on this album.

I love Astrud Gilberto a lot; there's this [1967] album of hers called Beach Samba that I was really, really inspired by, specifically in "From the Start."

I'm obsessed with Chet Baker. Can you talk about him more?

Chet Baker is probably the reason I started creating my own music, and writing my own music. I fell in love with his interpretations two or three years ago, and listened to the entire discography.

The way he phrases — the way he approaches words, but also solos — I have completely taken that into my own kind of musicality.

I think it's because [Baker is] really approachable jazz music for Gen Z and new listeners. I think I would have been very scared to say that back in the day, when I was at Berklee. But I'm not afraid to say it now.

When my friends ask me, "What jazz musician should I listen to?" I'm always like, "Go listen to Chet Baker," because I think it's such a great way to introduce new listeners to jazz. Because he's not only a singer — he's a musician. He plays  jazz like a jazz musician.

His early vocal albums were my first immersion in the Great American Songbook. "I'm Old Fashioned," "You're Driving Me Crazy"...

And he doesn't mess with them too much. Which is such a great way to get to know these standards, but also understand jazz form. I love Chet Baker; I think he's just the greatest musician of all time.

On the cover of Chet Baker Sings It Could Happen To You, he's sitting underneath a [waxing crescent] moon. I almost did that for the album cover.

It's important to note these are original compositions, not interpretations. Tell me how you inhabited that language, to write something that feels part and parcel with jazz tradition.

Well, I've learned pretty much every jazz standard — the ones that are in the Real Book, the main ones. I've learned the lyrics; I've figured out the chords.

I think once you have that musical language within you and you understand the form a bit,  you'll find that jazz songs have a very similar form. There are lots of similar chords — the II-V-Is, which is my trick to make any song sound jazzy.

The songs on the album that are the most pop/rock-driven are climbing in II-IV-Is, which bring them back to jazz land — or Laufey land, as I like to say.

[It comes down to] the chord choices, and melodic choices. There are some intervals and licks that are commonly used — that you just kind of adopt, and it becomes a part of you.

**Tell me about your accompanists on Bewitched, as well as its producers and engineers.**

I work very closely with my producer, Spencer Stewart, who also did my first album; he's like my musical soulmate. We nerd out about jazz and classical music all day. But then, he's a really wonderful producer of pop music as well. So, it's this really great combination.

Basically, what I do is: I'll write the song, bring it to him, and we'll usually lay down a guitar or voice or something. We did most of the album in his home studio, and we just jumped around; I would play guitar or piano, he would play drums and bass, I would play cello.

It would just take a day or two, and we'd have a track. It was very organic, in that way — a very modern approach to recording jazzy songs. Which I hope is something that gives it that unique touch.

There's one track on the album that we recorded at EastWest Studios in Hollywood, on
Frank Sinatra's piano, which was so cool. Two of the songs we recorded with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the orchestra based out of London.

There was an orchestra conductor there, and an engineer that I worked with. But for the most part, it's produced by Spencer and me.

You're doing a lot to bridge the gap to a younger generation. But what caused that gap in the first place? Historically, what has lent itself to this disconnect?

I think about this a lot. I think the barriers to entry with jazz are too high. I think young kids feel like they need to be educated to speak about it, and to even listen to it.

I think it's done such a disservice to the music that it's gotten to that point. Because in the beginning, jazz music was kind of built on freedom from rules — just expression. And it was kind of meant to be something for everybody.

I think also the nature of Gen Z — and young people at all — is that they don't want to listen to adults. They want to hear something from someone their own age. So, it's my hope that I can tie these worlds together and introduce them to something via my own 24-year-old voice.

Trombone Shorty Preservation Hall
Trombone Shorty and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the 2020 GRAMMYs

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images


A College Of Musical Knowledge: 15 Musical Groups That Act As Hubs For Emerging Talent

Some acts have few or no original members because they simply can't keep the band together; others turn over their memberships somewhat by design, and act as bona fide academies for new waves of musicians. Here are 15 diverse examples.

GRAMMYs/Dec 13, 2022 - 07:41 pm

Ever hear of the Ship of Theseus thought experiment? It asks the reader to picture a ship whose components have been replaced — hull, mast, sail, rudder, and every single plank of the deck. Is it still Theseus' craft? Or something else entirely? The question still bedevils philosophers.

Now apply this framing to beloved musical groups of the 20th century. That's what Rolling Stone writer David Browne did in his 2022 feature, "The Future of Classic Rock Tours: One or Two Surviving Members…or None?"

As Browne illuminated, estate-authorized acts like the Allman Brothers Band Presents: Trouble No More are bringing beloved songbooks to audiences thirsting for them — without most or all of the parent band's original members. (Lynyrd Skynyrd is down to one.)

And with the passage of time, Trouble No More could become a model for keeping acts on the road — and, in turn, streaming numbers up, and the brand in people's mouths.

Audiences may feel one way or another about seeing Woodstock-era favorites Canned Heat with one almost-original member: Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra. (Side note: they still cook.) But what if the massive turnover isn't an unfortunate hurdle due to members dying or leaving? What if, to some degree, it's the whole point?

Welcome to the sphere of music where classic ensembles act as hubs for emerging talent; they turn over like college alumni or sports teams. Many of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers became jazz legends; John Mayall's Bluesbreakers gave the world Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Peter Green.

And this model applies across the board: to big band, to classical, to cumbia and salsa. Slipknot and Tower of Power arguably qualify. So do Yellowjackets. And so did Miles Davis' and David Bowie's various groups. Doo-wop is full of them. There's one titanically important electronic band, extant since 1967, passed to a new heir.

All ensembles may consist of mortals with shifting priorities, but their music doesn't have to disappear when they do. Here are 15 longstanding acts who replaced most or all of their planks — to borrow a metaphor — and made the most of it.

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers aren't only a serious contender for the greatest jazz band of all time, they functioned as an unofficial jazz university, with drummer Blakey as their tempestuous headmaster. The group featured dozens of cats throughout its four-decaderun: Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean, Joanne Brackeen, Wynton and Branford Marsalis were all nurtured as Messengers, and that's just scratching the surface. When Blakey died in 1990, saxophonist McLean said just about the only three words you can say: "School is closed."

Count Basie Orchestra

From the Mingus Big Band to the Duke Ellington Orchestra to the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (once known as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra), jazz is replete with big bands whose leaders died long ago. Some call them "ghost bands," whether or not their musicians appreciate the tag. Whatever your chosen vocabulary, Count Basie Orchestra is one of the most prestigious ensembles without their fearless leader, who formed the group in the mid-1950s. As for the Basie band's current incarnation, led by the illustrious Scotty Barnhart? They were nominated for a GRAMMY in 2021, for Live at Birdland!.

John Mayall's Bluesbreakers

John Mayall's Bluesbreakers hold the strange distinction of being written and talked about more than listened to. Any biography of the Rolling Stones, Cream and Fleetwood Mac will invariably mention them, but when's the last time you cued them up on Spotify? That shouldn't be the case, necessarily; they made classics like 1966's Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton and fostered guitar gods in all three of those household names. And best of all, they’re still at it.

Juilliard String Quartet

Founded in 1946, the Juilliard String Quartet is critically important to the evolution of chamber music stateside. William Schumann, the then-president of the New York school, founded it; violinists Robert Mann and Robert Koff, violist Raphael Hillyer, and cellist Arthur Winograd formed the OG lineup. Areta Zhulla, Ronald Copes, Molly Carr, and Astrid Schween are currently in their seats; over the decades, they've won four GRAMMYs and been nominated for 16.

La Sonora Dinamita

Since their founding in 1960, Colombian cumbia greats La Sonora Dinamita have played an instrumental role in the form's popular resurgence. Beneath the unchanging banner, their lineup has turned over, and over, and over: original singer and musical director Lucho Argain's passing in 2002 didn't stymy their constant evolution. In the 2020's, with current players at the vanguard of cumbia, they remain absolute dinamita, releasing music with abandon.

Do you typically think of boy bands as being relatively static, membership-wise? Maybe one or two members in and out, but the familiar faces remaining? Feast your eyes on Menudo's Wikipedia page: a whopping 38 past members. Since the brand's formation in 1977, Menudo has provided a launching pad for international stars Ricky Martin and Draco Rosa, and weathered tragedy and legal battles. But they're not ending anytime soon — thanks to Mario Lopez and his global talent search.


Who's the most prolific, dynamic and influential ensemble in funk history? It's borderline axiomatic that the answer is P-Funk. Together or apart, Parliament and Funkadelic haven't just made bona fide classics — press play on  1971's Maggot Brain or 1978's One Nation Under a Groove — they architected their own bizarre, hyper-imaginative, Afrofuturist universe. And it goes even deeper: under the tutelage of George Clinton, members like Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell and Eddie “Maggot Brain” Hazel became stars. The collective is still going today; looking at the astonishing headcount over the years, it seems hard to find someone who wasn’t in P-Funk. To everyone who was, is, and has been — what a feather in your cap.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

New Orleans is Pres Hall is New Orleans: watch the wonderful 2018 documentary A Cuba to Tuba to find out why. These days, countless historical jazz sites in the Big Easy are crumbling and collapsing, but institutions like the Preservation Hall Jazz Band — as well as Dirty Dozen Brass Band, among others — ensure the music is unscathed. Founded in the early 1960s as the house band for the hallowed French Quarter venue, the ensemble has never reneged on its mission: "nurturing and perpetuating the art of New Orleans jazz."

Tangerine Dream

Founded in 1967, the German electronic music pioneers join Guided by Voices and the Grateful Dead with this distinction; you could only listen to Tangerine Dream and be well-stocked with jams for the foreseeable future. As the brainchild of Edgar Froese for decades, they made classics like 1972's Zeit, 1974's Phaedra, 1980's Tangram… the list goes on. The band could have understandably folded when Froese passed in 2015, but his successor, Thorsten Quaeschning, remains the bearer of the flame. And by the sound of their stunning 2022 album Raum, rightfully so.

The Four Seasons

If infectious, pre-Beatlemania tunes like "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" have been basically implanted in your skull from birth, thank one man first and foremost: Frankie Valli. His Four Seasons have provided a platform for numberless singers and instrumentalists since then — through the '70s, '80s, '90s, and up to the present day. These days, 88-year-old Valli is the only remaining original member of these Jersey boys — which says much less about the integrity of the original group than his capacity to hand out hat-hanging legacies.

The Skatalites

Whether or not the ska revival swept you up or not — and regardless of the volume of checkerboard threads in your closet — the fact remains that the Skatalites are pillars of the form. Like the Four Seasons, the instrumental supergroup began during Beatlemania time, and never stopped mutating and evolving. Decades past their early hits, like "Guns of Navarone," they give younger players like New York saxophonist Anant Pradhan a chance at ska royalty while offering legends the chance to bring Jamaica's freedom sounds to new generations — like 85-year-old percussionist Larry McDonald.

The Temptations

Ah, the Temps: Detroit legends, undersung psychedelic voyagers, the first Motown signees to win a GRAMMY. (That was in 1968, for "Cloud Nine"; how could Membership back then sleep on "My Girl"? We digress.) In 2018, the Broadway show Ain’t Too Proud gave opportunities beyond the purview of the endlessly shapeshifting original band. Come the 2020s, Otis Williams is the only original Temptation; many, many men have been one. Imagine the feeling of learning you're one. A certain jam from '68 might sum it up.

The Wailers Band

We're used to hearing this band name glued to "Bob Marley &"; is their association with Marley the long and short of their importance? Heavens, no, as at least two other members were legends in their own right: Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. After Marley's death in 1981, the band continued under various permutations and spin-offs — including The Original Wailers — with talented members in and out the door. These days, Aston Barrett Jr. and Emilio Estefan Jr. are at the helm of the Wailers Band; Barrett's been nominated for a GRAMMY, Estefan's won two.

The Yardbirds

Despite being something of a '60s relic, the Yardbirds' whole catalog holds up; they were as psychedelic as anyone, white British boys with a deep command of the blues. In their heyday, they launched the careers of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck; Led Zeppelin originally took flight as the New Yardbirds. And their lineup churn continues; original drummer Jim McCarty remains.

So many members of the Allmans have dropped, but their popularity remains undimmed. (Crank up 1971's At Fillmore East on a good system and you'll see why.) Their estate has tried a unique tack: sending an estate-approved band called Trouble No More on the road, platforming young talent while giving the people the jams they require. Diehards' mileage may vary regarding a completely reconstituted Allmans. But the magnitude of talent from the multiracial, multigender ensemble might make haters eat a peach.

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