A Jazzy Chanukah with Ben Sidran | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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A Jazzy Chanukah with Ben Sidran




If you can get past the corny title you should have no trouble appreciating pianist Ben Sidran's unusual and impressive cross-cultural fusion. To begin with, Sidran has included plenty of great Jewish melodies you'll never hear at synagogue: the songs of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Sammy Cahn, all of them bar mitzvahed residents of Tin Pan Alley. And he'll fill the stage with spectacular musicians who, being Jewish, have had a lifetime to absorb the melodies of this holiday. They include wizardly clarinetist Eddie Daniels; vibist Mike Mainieri (of Steps Ahead); imaginative keyboard orchestrator Gil Goldstein; Chicago favorites Howard Levy on harmonica and Joel Spencer on drums; and texturally refined guitarist Steve Khan, son of the aforementioned Sammy Cahn. But even when Sidran dips into the liturgical repertoire, he finds ways to make the songs fresh and contemporary without compromising his respect for their origins or the tradition they have long enhanced. Sidran's 1994 album Life's a Lesson (Go Jazz) featured most of the musicians who join him for this concert--notably Lynette Margulies, whose transparent soprano lights up the proceedings like that magical cruse of oil. At its best this terrific lineup brings out the subtle link between African-American and Middle Eastern tonalities--in other words, between Jews and blues. Sunday, 3 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress; 312-431-2370 or 312-902-1500. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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