Sidran, Ben

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Sidran, Ben

Sidran, Ben, jazz pianist, singer, songwriter, journalist; b. Chicago, III., Aug. 14, 1943. He grew up in Racine, Wise, and started playing piano at age seven. He attended the Univ. of Wisc. (1961–66), and received his B.A. He met Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs there and was a member of an early Miller band, but switched to mainstream jazz. Sidran studied at the Univ. of Sussex in Brighton, England (1967–70), earning a Ph.D. in American Studies. His dissertation was the basis of the book Black Talk, published in 1970. He had a weekly program on WMTV in Wisc. (1973–74); by 1975–76, he was producing programs for the nationally aired WTTW-TV production Soundstage. He produced The Jazz Life (1981–83), a series of one-hour performance videos. He was also active in radio as the host and artistic director of Jazz Alive (1981–83) and a contributor of music features to All Things Considered on National Public Radio (NPR) (1983–85). From 1985–90, he was host and producer of Sidran on Record, an NPR program that featured weekly national interviews with jazz personalities. He hosted New Visions (1988–91) on the VH-1 Television Network that won a 1989 Ace Award for “Best Cable Music Series.” In 1994, he was music producer and composer for the prize-winning documentary Hoop Dreams. He has produced albums by Van Morrison, Mose Allison, Michael Franks, Diana Ross, Jon Hendricks, Tony Williams, Ricky Peterson, Richie Cole, Dominique Eade, and others. He is president of Go Jazz Records. As a performer, since 1970 he has given concerts and lectures at universities, concert halls jazz festivals, clubs, and radio and television studios throughout the U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia and Latin America, including the Newport and Montreux Jazz Festivals. He appears in the film Survivors (with Archie Shepp) and did national tours with the Steve Miller Band (1987–90). From 1973–74, he taught at the Univ. of Wise. He has written columns, articles, and criticism for Esquire, Rolling Stone, Jazz Magazine (France), and Swing Journal (Japan).


I Lead a Life (1972); Puttin’ in Time on Planet Earth (1973); That’s Life I Guess (1976); Free in America (1976); Live at Montreux (1978); The Cat and the Hat (1980); Get to the Point (1981); Old Songs (for the New Depression) (1982); Live with Richard Davis (1985); Too Hot to Touch (1988); Cool Paradise (1990); Life’s a Lesson (1993); Mr. P’s Shuffle (1996).

—Lewis Porter