Ben Sidran

gig | Madison - Ardells (with Steve Miller & Boz Scaggs)
photo | Ben in ‘63
photo | Ben on Union terrace
photo | Ben on Union Terrace 2
photo | At a Paris Cafe
photo | London with Jann Wenner
album | Feel Your Groove
writing | Feel Your Groove: Lyrics
photo | Capitol sessions 1
photo | Capitol sessions 3
photo | Capitol sessions 4
photo | Capitol sessions 5
album | I Lead a Life
production | Journey From Eden / Steve Miller
conversation | Glyn Johns
writing | I Lead A Life: Lyrics
writing | Black Talk: Book
photo | Madison sessions 1
photo | Madison sessions 2
writing | Putting In Time On Planet Earth: Lyrics
production | Sylvester And The Hot Band
album | Puttin’ In Time On Planet Earth
conversation | Mick Jagger
production | Tell Me the Truth / Jon Hendricks
photo | Tony Williams in Boston 1
album | Don’t Let Go
writing | Don’t Let Go: Lyrics
photo | With Jane Fonda 1
photo | Bob Krasnow in Chicago
photo | Ibiza 1
photo | Ibiza 2
photo | With Jon Hendricks
album | Free in America
photo | Unknown Stage shot ‘75
photo | Madison Back Yard
photo | Winter 1976
photo | Bicentenial Bebop Band
gig | Long Island, NY - My Father’s Place
writing | Free In America: Lyrics
photo | San Francisco ‘76, 3
photo | Sing Me A Jazz Song Rehearsal
photo | Sing Me A Jazz Song Taping 1
photo | Sing Me A Jazz Song Rehearsal 3
photo | Sing Me A Jazz Song Rehearsal 4
gig | New York, The Bottom Line
album | A Little Kiss in the Night
photo | With Michael Franks, 1977
photo | Church Key
album | The Doctor is In
gig | Minneapolis - UofM
video | Germany, Music Laden “Broad Daylight”
writing | A Little Kiss In The Night: Lyrics
writing | Live At Montreux: Lyrics
album | Live at Montreux
photo | Montreux, Switzerland
photo | Montreux Performance
writing | The Doctor is In: Lyrics
conversation | Danny Richmond
gig | Tokyo, Theater
photo | Los Angeles promo shoot
writing | The Cat And The Hat: Lyrics
gig | Madison, Bunky’s (Trio)
album | The Cat and The Hat
photo | The Cat and the Hat posse
production | Pat MacDonald
photo | Perched on a chair
photo | Ben and Bunky Green
photo | Leo and Ben on stage
video | Willebskis Film with Archie Shepp “Willow Weep For Me”
photo | At Carnegie Hall
photo | Tim Hauser of the Manhattan Transfer and Ben
photo | Ensmeble singing “Oo Pa Pa Da”
photo | Richie Cole and Ben after the show
photo | Ben and Al Jarreau
photo | Ben and Al Jarreau
video | In Holland, “Charlie’s Blues”
gig | San Francisco, Keystone Korner (Kuartet)
photo | Musicians and promoters in Phoenix
video | Ben Island Promo
video | WHA TV, “Charlie’s Blues”
album | Old Songs for the New Depression
photo | “Old Songs” recording session
video | The Jazz Life featuring Richie Cole
writing | Old Songs For The New Depression: Lyrics
video | The Jazz Life featuring Mike Mainieri
conversation | Jesse Hill
conversation | Freddie Hubbard
conversation | Ben on WBCY
album | Bop City
photo | Talking with the piano
photo | Talking with the piano
photo | Street scene, San Francisco
conversation | Ben on KJAZ
photo | Born in Chicago
gig | Alaska, Fly By Nightclub - 1982 Quartet
photo | London promo shot for “Bopcity”
photo | London promo shot for “Bopcity”
album | Get to the Point
writing | Bob City: Lyrics
photo | Bopcity Band
photo | Ben and Richard in the museum
video | Since I Fell For You
photo | Tokyo photo
photo | Tokyo photo
photo | Ben and Archie Shepp
gig | Boulder, Conference on World Affairs with Spike Robinson, Dave Grusin
photo | Summers end in Minneapolis
photo | Summers end in Minneapolis
conversation | John Scofield Talking Jazz
gig | Chicago, Orphans Club
conversation | Dr. John Talking Jazz
photo | Ben and Dr. John
conversation | Art Blakey Talking Jazz
conversation | Freddie Hubbard Talking Jazz
photo | Ben and Richard Davis
photo | Ben and Richard Davis
photo | Ben and Richard Davis
album | Live at the Elvehjem
production | Night Watch / Ricky Peterson
gig | Alaska, Fly By Nightclub - Organ Quartet
video | Ben Sidran and Richard Davis, Jazz Class on Wisconsin Public TV - 1985
photo | Dr. John at the piano
conversation | Tony Williams Talking Jazz
conversation | Branford Marsalis Talking Jazz
photo | Ben interviewing Chick Corea
album | On the Cool Side
conversation | Jon Hendricks Talking Jazz
conversation | Sonny Rollins Talking Jazz
conversation | Dizzy Gillespie Talking Jazz
photo | Ben interviewing Rudy Van Gelder
writing | Graven Images Article
conversation | Wynton Marsalis Talking Jazz
conversation | Max Roach Talking Jazz
conversation | Miles Davis Talking Jazz
photo | Ben Sidran comes to Sydney
photo | Recording “On the Live Side”
photo | Recording “On the Live Side”
photo | Recording “On the Live Side”
video | Ben On the Live Side - Complete Concert
gig | Boulder, Conference on World Affairs - with Spike Robinson
gig | Sidney, The Basement
production | Pop Bop / Richie Cole
photo | Ben with Dave Brubeck and Marion McPartland
production | Ever Since the World Ended / Mose Allison
conversation | Gil Evans Talking Jazz
album | On the Live Side
writing | Have You Met Barcelona
album | Have You Met in Barcelona
photo | Ben in Nancy, France
conversation | Ben on France Musique
photo | In Bordeau with Leo
photo | Billy and Ben on the boulevard
photo | Don Cherry and Ben
conversation | Herbie Hancock Talking Jazz
conversation | Joe Sample Talking Jazz
production | Spread Your Wings / Clementine
production | Sarah Jane Morris
photo | The band lands in Japan
video | Tokyo, Bravas Club “Straight No Chaser”
video | Tokyo, Bravas Club “Have You Met Miss Jones”
production | Signature / Richie Cole
photo | Leo checks out the Hollywood action
photo | A diverse cast of characters following the gig
photo | Ben, Richie and Janis
photo | Ben and Richard Davis
gig | Minneapolis, Lake Harriett (feat. Steve Miller)
production | Born 2 B Blue / Steve Miller
writing | On The Live Side: Lyrics
photo | Hanging with the Little Giant
photo | Ben with Ben Riley and Johnny Griffin on the Ramblas
photo | Hanging with the Little Giant
photo | Johnny and Ben just before a take
photo | Ben and Johnny Griffin
conversation | George Benson Talking Jazz
conversation | Betty Carter Talking Jazz
gig | Minneapolis, NY’s Eve with Richie Cole
writing | Too Hot to Touch: Lyrics
conversation | Johnny Griffin Talking Jazz
photo | With Karim Abdul-Jabaar in his den
album | Too Hot to Touch
photo | At the festival in Vienne, France
conversation | Michel Petrucciani Talking Jazz
conversation | Ben at Stevens Point
photo | Ben, Bill Cosby and producer Mike Simon
conversation | Donald Fagen Talking Jazz
video | With Steve Miller “Just A Little Bit”
photo | Johnny Copland and Ben on set
photo | In the green room before the taping.
photo | Ben and Charles Wright of the Watts 103rd Street Band
photo | Steve Miller and I share a moment
photo | Miller loves to clown
photo | At the piano with Steve
photo | On stage with Ricky Peterson
photo | Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Roberts and Ben
photo | French singer Clementine and Ben
photo | French singer Clementine and Ben
conversation | Steve Gadd Talking Jazz
video | Rome, D.O.C. “Mitsubishi Boy”
production | Smile Blue / Ricky Peterson
production | My Backyard / Mose Allison
video | Australia Don Lane Show “Girl Talk”
photo | Ben delivering the news
photo | Ben and Billy considering the options
photo | Ben bunnies Steve
photo | It’s an old show-biz lick: I cool him off while he heats up the strings
photo | Surrendering to the rock and roll cosmos
photo | Spacing out in the fog
photo | Standing in Frank Lloyd Wright’s living room
writing | Cool Paradise: Lyrics
album | Cool Paradise
production | Mood Swing / Bob Malach
production | Cool Cat Blues / Georgie Fame
video | Australia With Crossfire “Everything Happens To Me”
gig | Anchorage Performing Arts Center
photo | Bob, Gordy, Billy and Ben
photo | Leo plays the soundcheck with the Miller Band
photo | Has the crowd turned its back on me or have I turned my back on them?
photo | In Maine, wearing protection from the mosquitos
photo | Bobby Malach’s “Mood Swing” musicians
photo | Georgie and Ben discussing the playback of “I Love the Life I Live”
photo | Georgie, Ben and Richard Tee going over the charts
photo | Ben, Georgie, Steve and Richard in the control room
photo | Japan Go Jazz promo shot
photo | Japan Go Jazz promo shot
gig | Tokyo, Club Quattro - with the GoJazz Allstars
video | Go Jazz Allstars in Tokyo “Lip Service”
video | Go Jazz Allstars in Tokyo - Complete Concert
production | The Go Jazz Allstars / Live In Japan
production | The Blues And Me / Georgie Fame
production | Whatever Happened to the Blues / Phil Upchurch
photo | Ben, Doctor John, Georgie Fame
photo | Georgie Fame, Paul Shaffer and Ben
photo | Tommy LiPuma and Ben
photo | Time out for a family moment
photo | Clyde Stubblefield and Michael Bland
photo | Blind Lemon (Les McCann) and Ben
photo | Ben, Gavin Christopher, Phil and Chaka Kahn
writing | Talking Jazz: Book
production | Natural Woman / Giorgia
photo | Ben and Oscar Brown Jr.
photo | Ben with Pops and Mavis Staples
photo | Ben with Pops and Mavis Staples
production | Dragonfly Summer / Michael Franks
photo | Ben in the window
photo | Ben in the window
photo | Ben in the window
photo | Ben casting a large shadow
photo | Dan Hicks, Michael Franks and Ben
production | Stolen Moments / The Lady Sings Jazz and Blues / Diana Ross
production | Gege and the Boparazzi
video | Rome with Roberto Gatto and Stefano di Battista “Straight No Chaser”
photo | Gil Goldstein
photo | Bob Mintzer
photo | Lee Konitz
photo | The Boparazzi crew
production | Clementine Sings Ben Sidran
video | Talking Jazz Book Reading, Madison
writing | The Jazz Of Stuart Davis - Article
conversation | Tommy Lipuma
production | The Earth Wants You / Mose Allison
conversation | Ben and Peter on Hoop Dreams
production | Oh! / Will Lee
photo | Promoting something (I forget)
photo | Ben in between takes
production | A Tear Can Tell / Ricky Peterson
video | Ben on CBS Sunday Morning for “Life’s a Lesson”
album | Life’s a Lesson
production | The Searcher / Bob Malach
video | Gege Telesforo featuring Jon Hendricks and Clark Terry “Mumbles” - GoJazz Artists Series
photo | Go Jazz Allstars in Japan
photo | Ben in the control room
conversation | Ben on KCRW
production | Love Is Strange / Phil Upchurch
gig | Madison, Cafe Montmartre - with Gege Telesforo
photo | Ben in the dark 1
production | Tell Me Something: The Songs Of Mose Allison
video | Madison, Union Terrace with Frank Morgan “Kansas City”
production | The Mother Tongue / Gege
writing | Mr. P’s Shuffle: Lyrics
album | Mr. P’s Shuffle
video | Ohne Filter “Too Hot To Touch”
photo | Go Jazz Allstars in Germany
photo | At La Villa, rue Jacob, Paris
photo | At La Villa, rue Jacob, Paris
photo | At La Villa, rue Jacob, Paris
gig | Madison, Cafe Montmartre - with Bob Malach, Mel Ford, Ricky Peterson
conversation | Mose Allison - Sentient Meat
photo | Clyde Stubblefield, Frank Morgan, Richard Davis and Ben
photo | Ben outside the club
photo | Ben and Roscoe Mitchell
production | Solita / Clementine
video | Ben Sidran, Georgie Fame, Van Morrison, Mose Allison “Tell Me Something”
production | When the Wind Was Cool / Dominique Eade
photo | With Mose Allison in London
photo | Ben and Leo in Washington D.C.
photo | The Celebrity Lounge
photo | Ben and Richard Davis at the performance
photo | Paul Motian, Mose and Ratso Harris
production | Gimcracks and Gewgaws / Mose Allison
conversation | Quincy Jones
production | Rhapsody And Blues / Phil Upchurch
album | Live at the Celebrity Lounge
conversation | Frank Morgan
conversation | Bob Dorough
production | Live At The Quest / The Minneapolis Allstars
photo | Promo shots in Paris
photo | The band at Orchestra Hall, Chicago
conversation | Phil Woods
photo | Ben playing Lorca’s piano
production | L Sid / Leo Sidran
photo | Ben and Leo in Amsterdam
video | Go Jazz Allstars Ohne Filter “Mr. Ps Shuffle”
photo | Recording “Poet In New York” with Georgie Fame
photo | The gathering of the tribes on the East side of Madison
photo | The gathering of the tribes on the East side of Madison
production | Vietnam Long Time Coming
album | The Concert for Garcia Lorca
conversation | Van Morrison
production | New Train / Paul Pena
production | Poet In New York / Georgie Fame
production | It’s Like This / Rickie Lee Jones
video | Spain Lo Mas Plus with Leo Sidran “Sevillanas / Huerto”
photo | London club night with Tony Bennett
photo | John Pizzarelli, Ben, Rickie Lee Jones
video | Conference On World Affairs “A Good Travel Agent”
production | Conversations With Michel / Bob Malach
production | The Mose Chronicles Vol. 1 / Mose Allison
production | Hoop Dreams
production | El Elefante / Ben and Leo Sidran
video | Barlow Planetarium Lecture
album | Walk Pretty
video | Madrid, Cafe Central - with Quintet featuring Bob Malach and Gege Telesforo
conversation | Ben in Barcelona
photo | Ben in London
photo | Ben and band in London
video | Osaka Blue Note “Walk Pretty”
photo | Ben. Tammy Baldwin, and the former president
photo | Ben at Motion Blue, Yokohama, Japan
photo | Ben at Motion Blue, Yokohama, Japan
production | The Original / Clyde Stubblefield
video | Encore In Yokohama
conversation | Ben on Area Reservada
photo | El Elefante cover photo shoot
conversation | Ben on TTBOOK
production | Bob’s Ben / Bob Rockwell
photo | The gig starts at 8:15
gig | Madison, Union Theater (Jewish Music Concert)
video | Germany, Music Planet “You Can’t Judge A Book”
video | Germany, Music Planet with Georgie Fame “Symphony Sid”
photo | After show party in Madrid
video | Go Jazz Allstars in Berlin
photo | Ben in Rome 3
video | Ben Making Nick’s Bump Drink
gig | Bayfield, Wisconsin - Big Top Chataqua - with Jorge Drexler
production | Bohemia / Leo Sidran
photo | Nicks Bumps Band in the studio
photo | Nicks Bumps Band in the studio
album | Nick’s Bump
production | Dissertation on the State of Bliss / Tom Wopat
writing | Ben Sidran A Life in the Music: Book
photo | Barcelona pub crawl through the Gotico
photo | At the Blue Note in Milan, Italy
photo | Cruising with Molly the Poodle
photo | Ben and Shirley Manson backstage
photo | Cleveland celebrates its native son
photo | The Cafe Montmartre vibe
photo | Cruising with Molly the Poodle
photo | Outside the Blue Note in Fukuoka, Japan
photo | Ben’s birthday in Osaka, Japan
album | Bumpin at the Sunside
photo | Les Paul day in Wisconsin
writing | Bumpin’ at the Sunside: Lyrics
gig | Madison, Jazz at Five - Organ Night Band
photo | Portrait
album | Live a Fip
photo | Ben, Sonny Rollins, Phil Upchurch
photo | Ben with the Funk Allstars
photo | Ben with the Funk Allstars
photo | At book festival in Deia with (L to R) Lucia Graves and Laura Garcia Lorca
photo | At book festival with Cynthia Lennon
photo | On stage with Peter Bogdanovich
photo | On the streets of Barcelona
photo | Ben, Boz and Jorge perform the songs
photo | Boz, Jorge, Ben talk about song writing
gig | Madison, Capitol Theater - with Jorge Drexler, Boz Scaggs
photo | On stage at the Cotton Club
conversation | Ben Sidran Talking Jazz
photo | The Artist Quarter, Minneapolis
production | Talking Jazz Box Set
photo | On stage, Grignan, France
photo | In Morelia, Mexico
photo | On stage at the Jazz Bakery, LA
photo | Out of the pad in Paris
photo | Ben and Georgie
photo | Painting with light
video | Lecture “If You’re Not Having Fun You’re Doing It Wrong”
conversation | Ben on NPR for Talking Jazz
photo | Jazz at 5 in Mad City
gig | Grignan, France
photo | Valencia, Spain
photo | In Soria, Spain
video | Ben Sidran Cien Noches at the Cafe Central, 2007
photo | The hall of mirrors
photo | Local talent
photo | Goodbye
photo | Ben and Georgie
photo | Running the voodoo down on stage
photo | Running the voodoo down on stage
photo | Party geishas in the hotel lobby
photo | The Fame / Sidran Quintet
gig | Tokyo Cotton Club - With Georgie Fame, 2008
gig | NY, Jazz Standard Organ Night
album | Cien Noches
photo | Rome book reading with music
photo | View from the stage, Madrid, Spain
photo | At the Sunset in Paris
photo | Monte Carlo
photo | Monte Carlo
photo | Buddy Greco and Ben
photo | Meanwhile back at the Cotton Club in Tokyo
photo | Meanwhile back at the Cotton Club in Tokyo
gig | Tokyo, Cotton Club - Nardis Review
photo | Rehearsing for the Dylan project with Rodolphe Burger
photo | Mad City autumn
album | Dylan Different
gig | Paris, Sunside - Dylan Different Band
photo | The Hotel Jazz
photo | The cave called The Jamboree in Barcelona
photo | At the Guggenheim in Bilbao
photo | Recording the music for Clementine’s “Going Uptown” album.
conversation | Ben with Bobby Jackson
photo | Ben in Catania
photo | Ben watching soundcheck
photo | A different drummer
photo | The band in black
photo | Man at his best
gig | Sicily, Caltenisseta - Quartet (Dylan Different)
video | Love Minus Zero / Dylan Different Live At The New Morning
photo | At the New Morning, Paris
photo | The Montreal Jazz Festival
video | Minneapolis rehearsal “Highway 61”
gig | Minneapolis, Dakota - Dylan Different
gig | Tokyo, Cotton Club - Dylan Different
photo | My Street
album | Dylan Different Live at the New Morning
gig | Paris, Sunside - Quartet + Rodolphe Burger (FIP Radio Broadcast, Interview and Concert)
production | Going Uptown / Clementine
photo | Peter Straub, Lorrie Moore and Ben at the Algonquin
photo | Ben in Ronciglioni, Italy
photo | Ben in Ronciglioni, Italy
photo | Las Palmas, Canary Islands
photo | Living the Dream
photo | The Blues and the Reds
photo | Just the Blues
gig | Vienna, Porgy and Bess - Quartet (Dylan Different Retirement Party)
gig | Wisconsin Science Festival - The Present Moment (with Richie Davidson)
video | Wisconsin Science Festival with Richie Davidson, “Present Moment”
video | Private Guy Original Demo
writing | There Was a Fire: Book
photo | Distinguished Alumnus
gig | Madison, Wisconsin Science Festival - with Richie Davidson
video | Phoenix, Musical Instrument Museum - Jews, Music and the American Dream - Performance and Lecture
gig | Fall Book Tour 2012: Oct 13-November 8
video | Wisconsin Book Festival - Jews, Music and the American Dream
photo | A Paris Portrait
photo | Take me to the Bridge
conversation | Ben Sidran Radio: Episode 1
writing | Don’t Cry For No Hipster: Lyrics
conversation | Ben with Gary Walker on WBGO for “Jews, Music and the American Dream”
video | New York, Center for Jewish History - Jews as culture brokers
conversation | Ben Sidran Radio: Episode 2
conversation | Ben with Dave Iverson on KQED for “Jews, Music and the American Dream”
album | Don’t Cry For No Hipster
gig | SPRING 2013 Gigs
photo | Yoshis, Oakland
conversation | Ben on KCSM “Desert Island”
photo | New York Masterminds: With Mark Ruffin and Tommy LiPuma
video | The Pace Report: “The Educated Hipster”
photo | Barbes, Brooklyn
video | Tokyo Cotton Club “The King Of Harlem”
photo | Backstage in Tokyo
conversation | Ben Sidran Radio: Episode 4
conversation | Ben on WTF with Marc Maron
gig | FALL 2013 GIGS
video | Paris, Sunset - “Groove Is Gonna Get You Through Times Of No Money”
photo | Barcelona, Jamboree - Quartet
video | Atlanta Jewish Music Festival - Jews, Music and the American Dream
video | New School For Jazz - Eyes of the Masters presentation
photo | The Seine Changes
video | TedX - Embrace Your Inner Hipster
video | Dee’s Dilemma - recording session
video | Blue Camus EPK
album | Blue Camus
writing | Blue Camus Lyrics
gig | Steve Miller Band - Children of the Future
gig | Steve Miller Band - Brave New World
gig | Steve Miller Band - Your Saving Grace
gig | Steve Miller Band - Number 5
gig | Gene Clark - White Light
video | Ben on One Shot Not with Manu Katché
photo | Outside with my guide Clyde
writing | A Life In The Music - Audio Book
video | 2015 The Literary Year
writing | Talking Jazz With Ben Sidran Volume 1
writing | Talking Jazz With Ben Sidran Volume 1
writing | Talking Jazz With Ben Sidran Volume 2
gig | Copenhagen Jazzhus Montmartre
video | Blacks, Jews and the American Dream
conversation | Third Story Podcast: Welcome To Copenhagen
photo | We’re Hip - with Leo Sidran, Bob Dorough, and Jamie Cullum
conversation | Third Story Podcast: Inspiration comes from Life at the Newport Jazz Festival
video | Rockburn Presents Ben Sidran
video | Jazz Music Use It or Lose It
video | National Writers Series
gig | FALL GIGS 2015
photo | Cats in Paris
gig | Paris Sunside
conversation | What Paris Felt Like
photo | With Paquito D’Rivera
video | “Picture Him Happy” live in Brooklyn
gig | SUMMER 2016 GIGS
photo | Clevage 1
video | Ben on Bird
photo | Stooping
writing | Picture Him Happy Lyrics
gig | FALL 2016 GIGS
video | Picture Him Happy EPK
video | Picture Him Happy - Lyric Video + Nightclub Intro
album | Picture Him Happy
video | MILES DAVIS on Dizzy & Drawing
video | I Might Be Wrong - official video
gig | SPRING 2017 GIGS
conversation | Ben on Neon Jazz with Joe Dimino
video | SONNY ROLLINS on Monk and the Bridge
photo | Laughing through the tears
photo | In the swamp
gig | MOBTOWN TOUR 2017
gig | FALL 2017 GIGS
photo | Paris with Ricky Ford
video | Playing Ellington in Madrid
production | The Madison Reunion
video | Ben and Kurt Elling “Doodlin’” in Chicago
album | Ben There, Done That: Ben Sidran Live Around The World (1975-2015)
video | The Funkasaurus

Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle: Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

April 5, 2012 - Sidran book on Jews in pop music is ‘elegant, insightful’
By Andrew Muchin
“There Was a Fire: Jews, Music, and the American Dream” by Ben Sidran. (392 pages, Unlimited Media hardcover $36, Nardis Books paperback $18.) Ben Sidran
In this age of iPods and music web sites, Americans march to the beat of their own soundtracks assembled from a nearly infinite supply of songs.
For most of the 20th century, however, Americans had turned to sheet music, then records, then radio to share in a growing national soundtrack. It offered pithy, sometimes artful songs that reflected both broad national trends and Jewish values.
Yes, Jewish values. Even in songs like “White Christmas” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
Segments of this history have been written, but never as elegantly, insightfully, and comprehensively as in Madison jazzman and author Ben Sidran’s book, “There Was a Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream,” published last month. He seamlessly blends memoir, history, philosophy, sociology, music theory, and juicy musician stories.
Racine-native Sidran has forged a unique and productive four-decade career as a jazz pianist, singer, composer, record producer, National Public Radio host, scholar, author, and musical innovator.
His 1994 CD “Life’s A Lesson,” a jazzy setting of Jewish religious songs featuring contributions from more than a dozen top Jewish jazz musicians he recruited, stands as one of the finest contemporary recordings of Jewish liturgical music. This was Sidran’s only wholly Jewish recording, and it could be the launching point of “There was a Fire.”
But Sidran begins the story in the sanctuary of Beth Israel Sinai Congregation in Racine, during his bar mitzvah celebration in 1956.
He remembers his pride and sense of accomplishment, but for Sidran the day’s spiritual content, which he describes as “connecting to something both serious and mysterious,” came when he went home to listen to his father’s jazz records.
‘A very Jewish dream’
Like Sidran, the early American Jewish songwriters had been fascinated by all things American. In 1908, Albert Von Tilzer, a Jewish immigrant and younger brother of songwriter Harry Von Tilzer, read a series of articles in The Jewish Daily Forward, a Yiddish newspaper, about baseball.
Without ever attending a game, he wrote “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” To Sidran, the song is less about watching baseball than conveying a desire to be invited to ballpark and participate in a quintessential American activity.
Sidran concludes that “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” is “about a dream, a very Jewish dream that came to speak to all Americans” about “a place from which no one was excluded and in which everyone was safe.” Von Tilzer is all in. “I don’t care if I never get back,” goes the song.
Three years later, a fellow Jewish immigrant, Irving Berlin, wrote “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” That the song wasn’t actually written in ragtime didn’t prevent Berlin from becoming “the king of ragtime.”
More importantly, contends Sidran, Berlin had accurately captured “something of the black American experience” in a popular entertainment vehicle for the first time since Stephen Foster was writing music in the 1860s.
Sidran similarly analyzes the work of George Gershwin, a piano virtuoso who, like Berlin, denied that his Jewishness had any influence on his music.
For those who would argue that the clarinet opening to Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” practically oozes klezmer, Sidran explains that Gershwin had written a multi-note opening that clarinetist Ross Gorman changed in rehearsal to a long glissando. Gershwin approved.
These insider stories are part of the charm of the book along with the obscure but influential music industry Jews that Sidran describes. Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, for example, was a serviceable clarinetist and bandleader whose major contribution to the jazz world was distributing marijuana to musicians, including his friend Louis Armstrong. Mezzrow was known for rolling the perfect joint, Sidran notes.
He was one of the many songwriters who wrote in both minor and major keys, creating moods of happiness and sadness. Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich saw the same meld in Jewish humor, which he called “laughter through the tears.”
Sidran’s analysis of Jews and American music and dreams sweeps through the decades all the way to hip hop, exploring many important contributions along the way.
There’s the famous story of Armstrong working as a boy on the junk wagon of the Jewish immigrant Karnovsky family in New Orleans. The Karnofskys advanced him the money for his first trumpet and showered him with love, encouragement, and traditional Jewish tunes.
Songwriter Jerome Kern invented the modern Broadway musical. Benny Goodman was the first big band leader to racially integrate his group. Tummeling Jewish businessmen opened dozens of small independent record labels such as Blue Note, Chess, and Specialty that popularized African-American blues, r & b, and jazz.
“There Was a Fire” describes guitar ace and musicologist Michael Bloomfield, a rich suburban Chicago kid who immersed himself in studying and playing blues. Bloomfield worked with our era’s great Jewish songwriter, Bob Dylan, whose life has been filled with what Sidran considers a key American Jewish value: inventing oneself.
Sidran is a master of two types of keyboards. His writing, like his piano playing, is clear, direct, rhythmic, and flowing. His ideas cascade, develop, expand, intertwine, and resolve.
For more information on Sidran and his book, see Sidran’s website
Andrew Muchin is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer and the host of the “Sounds Jewish” weekly program on Mississippi Public Broadcasting Music Radio. Nisan 5772. Thursday
 April 5th, 2012