Home » Jazz Articles » Radio & Podcasts » Ben Sidran: If You Can't Laugh At Life You're Through

1

Ben Sidran: If You Can't Laugh At Life You're Through

By

Sign in to view read count

Click the play button to listen

In a career spanning over fifty years and thirty five records, Ben Sidran has established himself as a philosopher poet. Equally celebrated for his precise, probing writing style as he is for his improvised spoken word jazz raps, he has carved out a truly unique space for himself. The Times of London aptly described Ben as "the world's first existential jazz rapper," and The Chicago Sun Times once referred to him as "a renaissance man cast adrift in the modern world." He is one of a kind. And he is, of course, also my dad.

There is no one else like Ben so it's not uncommon for his fans and followers to search his songs for meaning in times of trouble. When the world is uncertain, many find comfort in the wisdom of his words. So it was curious when, during the Covid pandemic, Ben chose to make his first ever fully instrumental record in 2022, Swing State. It was as if he had finally run out of words, at least for that moment, and he chose to let his piano tell the story that he was unable to sing about.

But those of us who know Ben well understand that he's never really out of words, so it was just a matter of time before he began to write again. And last summer we found ourselves back in a Parisian studio joined by a group of American and French musicians (including Rick Margitza, Billy Peterson, Olivier Ker Ourio) to make what would become his latest record, Rainmaker (Bonsai / Nardis). Andy Narell, Mike Mainieri, Michael Leonhart and John Ellis would eventually add to the tracks as well from the States.

In many ways Rainmaker is the next in a long line of Ben's records—a new collection of songs written in his particular style of hipster philosophy set against a backdrop of easily digestible grooves. On the other hand, he describes the process of making it as "wrestling with the devil." The accumulation of political, environmental and personal conditions made this particular project resonate differently for him.

We spoke recently about the process of making Rainmaker, the stories behind the songs, his belief in the power of humor to help survive adverse situations, how Philip Roth's retirement from writing affected him, whether or not he thinks retirement is truly possible for an artist, if this is in fact his last record, and what French rapper MC Solaar has to do with any of it.

< Previous
Angular Tuesday

Comments

Tags


For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.

Radio & Podcasts

Tune in daily to hear the internet's top jazz programs including Mondo Jazz, Jazz Bastard, World of Jazz, The Third Story, One Man's Jazz, The Outer View, Neon Jazz, A Broad Spectrum, Bitches Brew and more

View by program...

Program Schedule | JazzWeek Chart

Popular

Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.