File this one under “why the hell not”: Bill Murray, esteemed actor, comedian, and party-crasher, is releasing an album of classic music. According to the New York Times, Murray is currently rehearsing “a program of songs and literary readings” called New Worlds, set to chamber music led by the German-born, New York-based cellist Jan Vogler.
The project originated in 2013, when Murray and Vogler were seated across from each other on a flight from Berlin to New York. The two hit it off, and Murray invited Vogler to join him when he hosted Poets House’s annual poetry walk in 2015, leading a group of poets and poetry fans (and some curious/baffled Bill Murray fans) across the Brooklyn Bridge. Not long after that, the Times reports, the two began discussing plans for a joint musical project, which they’ve dubbed Bill Murray, Jan Vogler & Friends.
As the Times‘s Ben Sisario describes it, the recording session in a Manhattan studio was like something out of a movie. Murray, a bandana on his head, crooned Gershwin songs and selections from West Side Story, as well as reading passages from Whitman and Hemingway while the trio — Vogler, his wife, Mira Wang, on violin, and Vanessa Perez on piano — accompanied him. At one point while Murray was in the middle of a Van Morrison tune, Sofia Coppola (who directed him in 2003’s Lost in Translation, as well as his 2015 Netflix Christmas special, A Very Murray Christmas), wandered in, hugged Murray, and shot video of the session on her phone.
Murray and Vogler’s trio plan to tour their program throughout the summer and fall, beginning with its U.S. premiere at California’s Festival Napa Valley on July 20. A North American tour will follow, including an appearance at Carnegie Hall on Oct. 16. The recording will be released in August.
It’s not the first time a comedian has crossed over into the world of music: In January 2016, H. Jon Benjamin (best known for voicing the title character on the animated spy series Archer) recorded and released a jazz album called, Well I Should Have…, and subtitled, Learned to Play Piano. Like Murray, Benjamin was accompanied by real, professional musicians, although the title is quite literal: Benjamin really can’t play the piano, which makes the fact that he recorded an entire album’s worth of songs so ridiculously funny. (It was released on Sub Pop.)
Murray’s endeavor appears to be more sincere in intent and execution, although the beauty of Murray’s persona is his ability to confuse the categories of sincerity and authenticity altogether. I can’t imagine listening to New Worlds without laughing, but I’m not sure that’s what Murray would want. Then again, I’m not about to decode the inner-workings of that guy’s brain.