Ben Sidran | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Like his better songs, Ben Sidran is glib and slangy and considerably more complicated than that description would suggest. His piano style has a narrow focus, but within that range it's consistently forceful and often inventive; his singing arrives on a breathy, idiosyncratic, and surprisingly malleable baritone; and the songs he writes are so well fitted to the way he sings them that he seems to have uttered them full-formed at the time of their performance. (I'm not saying Mose Allison did have an illegitimate son, but if he had, it would be Ben Sidran.) I'm no great fan of Sidran's recent albums, with their synthesized stabs at contemporaneity, but my distaste extends to neither his songs nor his vocal work--both have an appealing, sexy indolence. And when he shows up in an undeniable jazz setting (as he does this weekend), he once again becomes the man who grew up playing funky acoustic blues and wrote his doctoral thesis on Eric Dolphy--a jazz-band leader of a high order. Too many years have passed since Sidran's been seen in his hometown, unless you want to count his "New Visions" programs, on VH-1; but with bassist Larry Gray, the kick-ass drumming of Joel Spencer, and the inspiring saxophonist Ron Dewar (with whom Sidran first played in the 60s), this gig could prove worth the wait. Tonight and Saturday, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Daid Loeb.

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