Ben Sidran's musical persona has always been one of cool-cat hipster, talk-singing his songs in a style reminiscent of his mentor, Mose Allison. On the Cool Side was one of his more commercially viable solo releases, finding an audience in the small coterie of contemporary jazz stations in the mid-'80s. The title track is a classic of the genre, an upbeat, joyous affirmation of life, featuring a backing vocal from old pal Steve Miller. Sidran's take on "Lover Man" adds a whole new funky dimension to that oft-recorded warhorse, as do his versions of "Heat Wave" and "Up a Lazy River," the latter featuring Dr. John on second vocal. The music on this recording is heavily electronicized, with programmed drums, synthesized riffs, and Fender Rhodes piano, but it sure sounds like a lot of fun. And, you'll find yourself walking down the street singing "keep on searching, keep it on the cool side" with a big smile on your face.
Ben Sidran's Biography
Jim Newsom [allmusic.com]
Pianist Ben Sidran grew up in Racine, WI. In the early '60s, he played with Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs in a band called the Ardells at the University of Wisconsin. After Miller moved to San Francisco and secured a recording contract, he called on old friend Sidran to join him in the Steve Miller Band following the departure of original keyboardist Jim Peterman. Sidran contributed on the keys and as songwriter on several Miller albums beginning with Brave New World in 1969, co-writing the classic "Space Cowboy" and three other tunes on that LP. He also authored "Steve Miller's Midnight Tango" on Number 5 and collaborated with Miller on several other tunes through the years. He produced his friend's under appreciated release, Recall the Beginning...A Journey From Eden in 1972. Sidran received a Ph.D. in philosophy/musicology, writing his doctoral thesis on African-American culture and music in the United States. The thesis was published to positive critical response in 1971 as Black Talk. Since 1972, he has released a number of solo albums in a cool, easy swinging style similar to Mose Allison. His early albums relied on acoustic instruments and lyrical references to his musical heroes. Later releases used electronic instruments and tasty synthesizers for an interesting sound best presented on albums like 1985's On the Cool Side and Cool Paradise from 1990.
Through the years, Ben Sidran and Steve Miller have remained close friends, popping up from time to time on one another's recordings or live performances. In 1988, Sidran co-produced one of Miller's most interesting latter-day recordings, Born 2B Blue, a collection of jazz standards dressed up in the same cool, low-key arrangements Sidran employs on his own albums.
Sidran has produced recordings for Mose Allison, Diana Ross, and others, and collaborated with Van Morrison and Georgie Fame on the tribute album The Songs of Mose Allison: Tell Me Something in 1996. In addition to making music himself, Sidran has hosted programs on VH1 and continues to write about the music he loves.