Ben Sidran is a polymath who holds a doctorate in American studies, has written several books, hosted and produced numerous radio and TV programs, and produced dozens of albums for artists as diverse as Diana Ross, Jon Hendricks, Van Morrison, and Rickie Lee Jones. The Wisconsin native (still Madison-based) is also a singer, keyboardist, vibraphonist, and songwriter with some 30 solo albums to his credit. Plus—drum roll—he co-wrote "Space Cowboy" (among other tunes) when he played with fellow Badger Steve Miller in his band of renown. Despite his legitimate rock legacy (including sessions with the Stones and Clapton), Sidran basically is a jazz hound from the hipster school of Mose Allison, or, as he once titled an album, on the cool side. Bringing it all back home on his latest album, Dylan Different, Sidran shines a brilliant new light on a dozen early Bob Dylan classics with jazzy arrangements that slyly incorporate simmering elements of funk, rock, and gospel. Meanwhile, Sidran's arid, Allison-style vocal delivery—once called "existential jazz rap"—compels us to pay close attention to vintage Dylan lyrics that were initially seized upon as phenomenal and revolutionary. Although long consigned to relative indifference by familiarity, the lyrics regain their luster thanks to Sidran's cool treatment, even "Blowin' in the Wind." On his way to Tokyo, Sidran will stop in for two nights at the Dakota with what he calls a "super hot" band: son Leo on drums (who also produced the album), trumpeter Mike Leonhart, reed player Bob Malach (who all played on it), plus the Twin Cities' own longtime Sidran associate Billy Peterson on bass.
Fridays, Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: July 23. Continues through July 24, 2010