Ben SidranBorn in Chicago in 1943, Ben was raised in the industrial lakeshore city of Racine, Wisconsin, going up to Madison to play keyboards at frat-house parties while still a teenager in 1960. The next year he was enrolled at the university, playing dates on campus and around town. He soon joined the Ardells, a Southern comfort party band led by frat boy singer Steve Miller and his friend Boz Scaggs. But when Miller and Scaggs went west to become stars, Sidran stayed to complete his degree in English lit.
After graduating from the UW in 1967, Ben moved to England to pursue a Master's Degree in American Studies at the University of Sussex. But when the Steve Miller Band came to England the following year to record with the legendary British engineer Glyn Johns, Sidran found himself back on the two-track life of academia and music.
In the fall of 1970 he moved to Los Angeles to go into the record business. Thanks to an introduction from Johns, Ben soon had his own record deal on Capitol Records. Feel Your Groove, a jazz/rock hybrid, featured Blue Mitchell on trumpet, guitarists Scaggs and Ed Davis and Jim Keltner on drums. Recognizing Ben's skills on both sides of the studio, Capitol also offered him a job as staff producer. But because his wife Judy was unhappy in the isolated haze of the Hollywood hills, Sidran did the unthinkable and walked away from LA in the summer of ‘71, returning to Madison just as Feel Your Groove was released and Black Talk was published. Taking up the Hammond B3 residency at a local club, Sidran soon found another life-long musical partner when James Brown played in town and his drummer, Clyde Stubblefield, stayed behind.
Ben showcased his many talents in varied fields - leading a national tour, producing Tony Williams and Paul Pena, creating and hosting a weekly television series, even returning to academia to teach "the social aesthetics of record production" at the UW. Although Ben developed a significant career in radio and television work during the eighties, he kept his hands on the keyboard, recording Get to the Point, Old Songs for the New Depression, Bop City, On the Cool Side, Have You Met … Barcelona, On the Live Side, and Too Hot to Touch.
Ben continued to click on many levels throughout the 1990s, even expanded his efforts to include starting his own label, Go Jazz Records, with partners in Japan. Early Sidran-produced Go Jazz releases included Georgie Fame's Cool Cat Blues, and Phil Upchurch's Whatever Happened to the Blues. In 1993, Ben combined his art with his soul on Life's a Lesson, a jazz-infused collection of Jewish liturgical and folk songs, featuring singer Carole King and a host of jazz luminaries. In a five-decade career (so far), this Go Jazz release is one of the crowning personal and artistic achievements.
The end of the century brought another emotional highlight - the release of Concert for Garcia Lorca, a tribute to the martyred Spanish poet, Federico Garcia Lorca. Recorded in the courtyard of Garcia Lorca's home, the album earned Ben another Grammy nomination. In 2003, Ben and son Leo created Nardis Music, a full-service label featuring enhanced CD's of all original releases. Among its first releases was Ben’s own Nick's Bump (2004). This was followed by Bumpin’ at the Sunside, recorded live in Paris (2006) and Cien Noches, recorded live in Madrid (2008). In 2010, Sidran completed Dylan Different, a tribute to the music of Bob Dylan; in 2012, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Wisconsin.
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