(Ronnie Scott’s. 6 June 2023. Live review by Adam Sieff)
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It’s been a year since Ben Sidran last played at Ronnie Scott’s, and following a rousing introduction from the club’s Paul Pace the packed house enthusiastically welcomed Sidran and his quartet to the bandstand featuring son Leo Sidran on drums, double bassist Billy Peterson and tenor saxophonist Rick Margitza.
They had just arrived via the Eurostar from Paris and were straight into the their stride on the opening Swing State, the title track of Sidran’s latest album released last year (link below). The list of tunes over their two 45-minute sets kept mostly to repertoire from Sidran’s more recent albums and looked back at a life well lived in jazz and raised questions about the future. There wasn’t one weak or wasted moment: Picture Him Happy, I Might Be Wrong, Who’s The Old Guy Now and Take A Little Hit were all terrific. Sidran’s explanation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poem King Of Harlem was a big moment in the second set and followed the equally wonderful Don’t Cry For No Hipster (link below) which might just be the best song Sidran’s written.
There were a couple of Bob Dylan songs which fitted in seamlessly (from the Dylan Different studio and live albums) – Love Minus Zero, Everything Is Broken and especially Tangled Up In Blue, with Billy Peterson the bass player on Dylan’s original version.
There was a relaxed air of playfulness all evening, particularly from Margitza who was dropping in quotes from Weather Report, a couple from Monk and even The Rolling Stones’ Miss You with Sidran calling him out for that one. Margitza is such a strong and melodic player, his solos added so much to the music.
At 79, and with his eightieth birthday approaching in just a couple of months, Sidran shows little sign of slowing down, his voice is as clear and expressive as ever and his great piano playing sits perfectly with a rhythm section that’s always in the groove. His charm and promise that ‘we would feel better when we leave than when we came in’ was again fulfilled. It was a wonderful evening – inspirational, entertaining, life-affirming. And it swung like crazy.
LINKS: Swing State on Bandcamp