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Ben Sidran/Bob Rockwell Quartet: Walk Pretty

Around the time that Mark Winkler started rummaging through the Bobby Troup songbook, saxophonist Bob Rockwell, now living in Denmark, was itching to honor another undersung hero of American jazz and pop, Alec Wilder. Fortunately for us, Rockwell’s first call went out to his singer-pianist pal Ben Sidran. Wading into the elegant complexity of Wilder’s work, Sidran spent three months absorbing the fragile beauty of such classics as “The Winter of My Discontent,” “While We’re Young” and “Lady Sings the Blues.” Then, together with Rockwell, bassist Billy Peterson and drummer Kenny Horst, he traveled to Rockwell’s hometown of Minneapolis to lay down the 12 tracks that fill Walk Pretty (Go Jazz). Result? A superbly thoughtful and intelligent tribute that’s as profound as it is lyrical. (Wilder devotees may question the absence of his most famous composition, “I’ll Be Around.” I suspect, though, that Rockwell and company wisely recognized the song’s severe overexposure.) Fans of Sidran’s spare, sandy vocals (imbued with a whip-smart worldliness worthy of Mose Allison) might be similarly disappointed to learn that he sings on only five selections. Consider it a case of quality exceeding quantity. Rambling from the relaxed confidence of the title track, through the sly restlessness of “Discontent” and “South to a Warmer Place” and on to the sweet que sera sera fatalism of “If Someday Ever Happens Again” and resigned desolation of “A Long Night,” Sidran proves himself, yet again, an inveterately resourceful troubadour.

Originally Published