Desert Island Jazz
Ben Sidran (2013)

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Pianist, vocalist, songwriter, producer, interviewer and so much more, Ben Sidran was born in Chicago. Raised in Racine, Wisconsin, it was perhaps natural for him to attend the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where he parlayed his early piano-playing experience into membership of The Ardells.

When fellow Ardells members Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs followed Horace Greeley's advice and headed west for stardom, Ben went back to school, earning a degree in English Literature. What more natural, then, to go to England, where, a few years later, he received his Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Sussex. It's difficult to imagine, though, how he managed to progress academically, given his off-campus career as a busy session musician with his old friend Steve Miller again, and with British musicians such as Eric Clapton, Peter Frampton, and the Rolling Stones.

It was in Los Angeles in the early 1970s that Ben began recording as a leader, and also producing recordings for others, two things he continues to this day. He still speaks fondly of seeking out for that first recording under his own name the trumpeter Blue Mitchell, whose work he'd come to know as a member of Horace Silver's quintet in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Beginning in the 1980s, Ben hosted a variety of shows for NPR, including "Jazz Alive", for which he won a Peabody Award. His "Sidran on Record" series provided material for the dozens and dozens of interviews with jazz greats which compose part of "Talking Jazz". (These interviews are among those available at his web site,

Ben has written several books "Black Talk", "A Life in the Music", and, most recently, "There was a Fire: Jews, Music and the American Dream."

Of Ben's 30-plus albums as a leader, there are many standouts, among them "Life's a Lesson", "The Concert for Garcia Lorca", and "Dylan Different". His newest, "Don't Cry for No Hipster", finds him writing about a guy on the back nine of life.
Pick Artist Album Song Label
# 1 Miles Davis Collector's Items Compulsion OJC
# 2 Taj Mahal Maestro Diddy Wah Diddy Heads Up
# 3 Mighty Diamonds Identity/Version Identity Joe Gibbs Music
# 4 Pedro Luis Ferrer Cuba, I Am Time, Vol. 2: Cantar En Cuba Mariposa Blue Jacket
# 5 Horace Silver Finger Poppin' Juicy Lucy Blue Note
# 6 Bud Powell Time Waits: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4 Time Waits Blue Note
# 7 Count Basie and Joe Williams Count Basie Swings--Joe Williams Sings Every Day I Have the Blues Verve
Book Saul Bellow, "Humbolt's Gift", or the I Ching
Luxury Item A 7' Yamaha grand piano
Castaways by date
Paul Anastasio
25 Sep
Macy Blackman
19 Jun
George Cole
21 Aug
Alex Condé
06 Mar
Kit Eakle
04 Sep
Phillip Greenlief
13 Feb
Noah Griffin
06 Nov
Tammy Hall
27 Feb
Alan Hall
22 May
Christian Howes
27 Mar
Kymberly Jackson
03 Apr
Julie Kelly
20 Feb
Maya Kronfeld and Valerie Troutt
29 May
Jennifer Lee
17 Apr
Steven Lugerner
24 Jul
Steve McQuarry
05 Jun
Jacqui Naylor
13 Nov
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24 Apr
Holli Ross
17 Jul
Ellen Seeling
02 Oct
Richard Seidel
09 Oct
Edward Simon
31 Jul
Tessa Souter
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Steve Turré
07 Aug
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Patrick Wolff
16 Jan