Ben Sidran 3-CD, 27-track ‘Ben There, Done That: Ben Sidran Live Around the World (1975-2015)


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Sunset Blvd Records is proud to announce the release of Ben There, Done That: Ben Sidran Live Around the World (1975-2015), a staggering three-disc set of previously unissued electrifying live recordings handpicked by Sidran featuring saxophonist Bob Malachand a host of other talented musicians recorded in New York, Paris, Madrid, Milan, Osaka, Tokyo, Minneapolis, Madison and London between 1975-2015. Street date for the limited-edition deluxe three-CD set is November 9, 2018.

The same year Ben Sidran wrote the pop classic “Space Cowboy” with Steve Miller (1969) he earned a PhD in American Studies from Sussex University in England; the following year, the year his first solo album (Feel Your Groove) was released on Capitol Records featuring pop icons Boz Scaggs, Peter Frampton and Charlie Watts and jazz legends Blue Mitchell and Willie Ruff, his dissertation was published as Black Talk, a sociological study of black music in America. No wonder the Chicago Sun Times referred to Sidran as “a Renaissance man cast adrift in the modern world” and, several decades later, the Times of London was moved to crown him “The first existential jazz rapper.” Sidran’s career — four decades of highlights are captured here in Ben There, Done That— is the stuff that stories are written about.

When producer Zev Feldman, who is also the co-president of Resonance Records, first contacted Sidran it was to ask him about a Mose Allison project he was working on. It wasn’t long before Feldman and Len Fico, president of Sunset Blvd Records, thought to ask Sidran himself what tapes he might have in his archives. “Upon contacting Mr. Sidran, it was apparent this idea of doing a career-spanning multi-disc set was perfect timing as he had recently given his complete archives, including live archival material, to the University of Wisconsin-Madison,” says Feldman. Sidran had recently reviewed all of his personal recordings and determined that much of it had never been issued before.

There are many great musicians represented throughout the set, but no one shines brighter than saxophonist Bob Malach. Former NPR producer Becca Pulliam writes in her liner notes: “In 1978, needing a tenor player for a tour of Japan, he [Sidran] called his friend Michael Brecker, who was busy but recommended ‘this young guy from Philly…’ Bob Malach became Ben’s first call sax player, and they have worked together over decades, ‘hundreds of gigs, thousands of miles.’ Next to Ben’s boogie bop, Malach’s horn drives and leads and comments and he never ever seems to repeat himself. ‘He’s an unsung hero of the music,’ Ben says, ‘an inspiration, a singular voice, force of nature. He swings so hard he can swing the rhythm section…’ (I hear that in “House of Blue Lights”) and ‘he’s the sweetest guy in the world.’”

The program director for the “Real Jazz” channel on Sirius XM, Mark Ruffin, has known Sidran for nearly 40 years. During the course of their lengthy conversation about this project, much of which is represented in the CD booklet, Ruffin asks Sidran about which accomplishments he’s most proud of over his long and storied career. Sidran answers, “the fact that I learned how to write and play, I’m very proud of that. Because when I came up, you couldn’t learn this music going to school. I mean, they didn’t teach it. Back in the ’50s and ’’60s, if you wanted to play bebop piano, or you wanted to understand what was going on, you had to put on the records and listen to them a thousand times and try and figure it out. And it was really not easy, man, it was like trying to learn a language from scratch. Like what if you were on one side of a wall and on the other side they were talking some language that you didn’t know. You would have to listen and try and listen again and try again. And gradually, you learned the language.”

Janis Siegel, Grammy-winning vocalist, arranger and founding member of world-renowned vocal group the Manhattan Transfer, says about her friend Sidran, “Ben has always been a modern troubadour to me … someone who speaks out in his own witty musical way about injustices, inequalities and the ironies of being human. He is a fount of knowledge about music, a wonderful and thought-provoking writer and a hipster to the bone.”

The iconic English keyboardist and R&B/jazz singer Georgie Fame has known Sidran since the late 1980s and recorded three albums on Sidran’s Go Jazz label. Aside from their mutual admiration for the great Mose Allison, Fame and Sidran also have the shared experience of performing music with their sons. Fame says, “The most important thing about playing with your own flesh and blood, apart from all the other emotions that you feel while you’re performing live with musicians, especially your best friends, which the guys in the band have to be in order to share this thing around, but when you’re performing with your own flesh and blood, it adds another dimension.” Sidran echoes a similar sentiment when talking with Mark Ruffin: “There’s something about working with Leo that’s deeply personal and gets me to a place that I don’t get to any other way.”

This deluxe package includes an extensive 24-page book,presented in a beautifully designed digipak by Burton Yount, with notes from co-producers Feldman and Sidran, plus an essay by Pulliam, an expansive interview with Sidran conducted by Ruffin, and comments from Siegel and Fame.

Birk’s Works (3:16) — Minneapolis, KTCZ Radio Broadcast (September 19, 1975)
The Groove Is Gonna Get You (10:39) — Sunset, Paris (November 11, 2015)
The Funkasaurus (8:41) — Tokyo, Cotton Club (May 21, 2009)
That’s Life I Guess (4:11) — Milan, Blue Note(December 1, 2003)
You Can’t Judge a Book (4:32) — Milan, Blue Note(December 1, 2003)
The House of Blue Lights (8:12) — Madison, Jazz @ Five (July 29, 2001)
Dying Anyway (5:20) — Paris, Sunside (November 7, 2000)
On the Road Again (5:28) — Paris, Sunset (May 11, 2007)
Revenge of the Funky Duck (5:30) — Minneapolis Radio Broadcast (September 19, 1975)

1. Ballin’ on the Reservation (3:02) — Madrid Area Reservada (November 24, 2000)
2. Blue Minor (6:24) — Milan, Blue Note(December 1, 2003)
3. Hard Times feat. David “Fathead” Newman (6:02) — New York, Jazz Standard (May 4, 2008)
4. Minority feat. Phil Woods (6:38) — New York, Jazz Standard (October 7, 2007)
5. New York State of Mind (10:11) — London, Pizza Express (December 2, 2001)
6. Let’s Make a Deal / Absent Soul (17:33) — Paris, Sunside (November 7, 2000)
7. Piano Players (7:29) — Paris, Sunside (November 7, 2000)

1. Song for a Sucker Like You ( \4:41) — New York, Governor’s Island (June 30, 1991)
2. On the Sunny Side of the Street (6:27) — London, Pizza Express (December 2, 2001)
3. Mitsubishi Boy (5:13) — Osaka, Blue Note (April 18,1991)
4. Straighten Up and Fly Right (5:28) — New York, Governor’s Island (June 30, 1991)
5. Lip Service (4:41) — Osaka, Blue Note (April 18,1991)
6. Walking with the Blues (8:30) — Osaka, Blue Note (April 18,1991)
7. Just a Dream (4:37) — Tokyo, Cotton Club (May 21, 2009)
8. Language of the Blues(4:23) — Osaka, Blue Note (April 18, 1991)
9. Too Hot to Touch (4:02) — Tokyo, Quatro (April 19,1991)
10. My Little Sherry (4:35) — Tokyo, Cotton Club (May 21, 2009)
11. Life’s a Lesson(2:49) — Tokyo. Blue Note (November 7,1991)

SUNSET BLVD RECORDS is a new label venture spearheaded by founder and producer Len Fico dedicated to preserving and releasing vital music from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, plus new music spanning all genres of rock, blues, country, jazz, gospel, soul, punk and more.