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Ben Sidran: Live at the Celebrity Lounge

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Singer-pianist Ben Sidran seems to have made “engaging” his watchword: he engages his audience, he engages with his friends in the band, he engages with the music. He simply is engaging. The concept is perfectly illustrated in this recording of a concert at the University of Wisconsin, for which Sidran accommodated the players with a “celebrity lounge” on stage, behind the band-a sort of swingin’ update on Martin Mull. Sidran is like Mose Allison with a bad case of the mellows: his blues are all about the cure, and not at all about the pain. His mates in the rhythm section include son Leo on drums and the eminent Richard Davis on bass. They are joined through the evening by Phil Upchurch on guitar, Phil Woods on alto sax, Mike Mainieri on vibes, and singers Geg Telesforo and Lynette Margulies. Sidran opens the set with an intriguingly oblique “Sentimental Journey” and closes with an all hands “Blues for the Celebrity Lounge.” In between we get the amazing mouth drums (!) and mumbles a la Clark Terry from Telesforo, a striking arrangment of an Israeli tune for Margulies, and some solid solo work from Mainieri, Upchurch and Woods-check the alto on “Old Folks.”