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Ben Sidran: Blue Camus

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Great jazz, true jazz, is in the ears of the interpreter, whether player or listener. So Ben Sidran is fair in arguing that jazz and existentialism are kindred forces. On his website, the vocalist, keyboardist and songwriter acknowledges his previous album, 2013’s Don’t Cry for No Hipster, as a connecting point for Blue Camus. If, he posits, Hipster was about a jazz practitioner’s (or aficionado’s) inner monologues, then Camus “reflects the external input source that the hipster has been taking in.” Importing two of Hipster‘s contributors-son, frequent co-writer and drummer Leo Sidran, plus Leo’s singer wife Amanda (a.k.a. Trixie Waterbed)-Sidran adds two members of Minnesota’s celebrated Peterson family, Ricky on Hammond and brother Billy on bass, with guest appearances by saxophonist Bob Rockwell.

He bookends these eight tracks, evenly split between vocals and instrumentals, with wordless salutes to two personal touchstones: the furtive opener “Soso’s Dream,” for granddaughter Sol; and the expansive closer, Max Waldron’s “Dee’s Dilemma,” for Jackie McLean. For lyrical inspiration, he draws on four landmark works: Albert Camus’ The Stranger, George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Fatalism and social harmony seem key motifs, with New York City, its glory and decay, a thematic mantra. But that’s just one interpretation. Finding your own way through the Sidranian labyrinth is precisely the idea. As he sings-in that marvelous Jack Kerouac-meets-Bob Dorough way-in the title track, “It’s all so dark, but it’s all so clear.”

Originally Published