I’d never heard of Ben Sidran (1943 – ), before recently
watching his 56-minute concert from 1995. It was taped at
the Ohne Filter Studios in Germany, and released on DVD in
2004 by the Ohne Filter Musik Pur label.
Ben Sidran has had a long career which dates back to 1962,
when he played with Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs in The Ardells.
He’s also written books on Jazz and functioned as a producer,
songwriter, interviewer, and educator—you name it.
This 1995 concert featured Sidran as the pianist and vocalist
in a four-piece band consisting of Billy Peterson on five-string
electric bass, Bobby Malach on tenor saxophone, and
drummer Gordy Knudston. They performed a set of seven
songs followed by two encores, including “Let’s Make a Deal,”
“Too Hot to Touch,” “You Talk Too Much,” and
“I Don’t Worry About a Thing.” Although these songs were
clearly performed in a Jazz style featuring players with
serious Jazz chops, Sidran’s music can’t be strictly labeled
as “Jazz.” I’d refer to it as cool Jazz with a strong Pop
sensibility, which was occasionally redolent of
music by Steely Dan.
Sidran’s vocals conveyed communicative storytelling and were
easy to understand. His voice isn’t exceptional, but his keyboard
skills are, and he was seated at a Steinway grand piano
topped by a Yamaha organ. Sometimes, he played both
instruments concurrently. The musicians in his group were
suited to each other, and played as if their lives depended
upon it. I suppose that you could call this music
“Jazz for the masses.”
As usual, the sound quality and production values on this disc
were excellent. It was filmed for German television, and the
bonus extras included a printed multilingual biography, along
with interviews with the Ohne Filter producer.
I’m glad that I learned about Ben Sidran, because he’s
obviously been a strong presence in the Pop/Rock/Jazz
industry for decades. I do wish that the dates of the gigs
in the Ohne Filter DVD series were listed in the credits, which
would save me the trouble of performing additional searches.