A self-confessed audio pack rat — he prefers the term “historical freak” — Ben Sidran was more than prepared when Sunset Boulevard Records approached him with the idea to compile four decades of live performances onto the new collection Ben There, Done That: Ben Sidran Live Around the World (1975-2015) — whose “The Funkasaurus” from 2009 in Tokyo premieres exclusively below.
The timing was certainly right, coming right after Sidran had compiled personal papers and artifacts for his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. “I had gone through all these tapes, so I knew what was there,” Sidran tells Billboard. “I knew where all the great stuff was, so it came together very quickly. I had literally hundreds of tracks to choose from. ”
The limited edition (3,000 copies) 27-song set, due out Nov. 9, is divided into three thematic discs, each of which Sidran feels “tells kind of a separate story.” The first disc, which includes “The Funkasaurus,” features “groove music,” while the second is comprised of bebop jazz, and the third is more pop-oriented. Taken together, it illustrates the pianist/vocalist/band leader’s growth and creative development. “In some ways I was amazed at how intact that stuff sounds. Back in ’75 I was really young, man, and yet the playing is good and the music has a kind of coherence to it. We were all just making it up. We played everything with a lot of intensity. Now we don’t do that anymore. I think you can hear the maturity, the comfort, the relaxation.”
The package features essays about Sidran, his own liner notes, as well as a new interview with Mark Ruffin of SiriusXM and tributes from Georgie Fame and the Manhattan Transfer’s Janis Siegel. And Sidran is hoping that after the initial edition of Ben There, Done That, some mass version will also be released.
“That would be OK with me,” he says. “In fact, I pulled my favorite one-CD’s worth of material so I have it in my pocket should that come up. We’ll see. I don’t have to tell you people aren’t buying CDs now. But the nice thing about this it’s sort of a collector’s item. You can stream the music but you can’t stream the experience of the package.”
Sidran is preparing for his annual fall tour of Europe, which begins Nov. 3 after an October one-off in Tel Aviv. Some new recording is also in his sights to follow up 2017’s Picture Him Happy. “I’m writing tunes,” Sidran reports. “Putting together this package has been my focus the last couple of months, but every 18 months or so it turns out I come up with a new album. Picture Him Happy came out about 18 months ago, so it’s feeling like time again. It probably won’t be too much longer.”