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Articles Home » 1979 Articles » Sidran, Ben - 1979 The Cat In The Hat
Sidran, Ben - 1979 The Cat In The Hat

ARTIST: Sidran, Ben
ALBUM: The Cat In The Hat
LABEL: Horizon Records
YEAR: 1979


LINEUP: Ben Sidran - vocals, acoustic piano, yamaha electric grand, fender rhodes, synthesizers * Mike Maineri - vibes, synthesizers, fender rhodes * Steve Gadd - drums * Abraham Laboriel - bass * Lee Ritenour, Buzzy Feiten - guitars * Michael Brecker, Joe Henderson - tenor sax * Tom Scott, Pete Christlieb - tenor sax, flute * Jim Horn - baritone sax, flute * Tom Harnell, Gary Grant, Jerry Hey - trumpet * Dick Hyde - trombone * Don Grolick - organ * Susan Ciani, Ian Underwood - synthesizer programs * Frank Floyd, Luther Vandross, Gordon Gordy, Mike Finnegan, Max Gronanthal, Tisha Campbell, Craig Davis, Claude Brooks, Gerard Randell - background vocals

TRACK LISTING: 01 Hi-Fly * 02 Ask Me Now * 03 Like Sonny * 04 Give It To The Kids * 05 Minority * 06 Blue Daniel * 07 Ballin' The Jack * 08 Girl Talk * 09 Seven Steps To Heaven


Madison, Wisconsin is a quiet unassuming state capital surrounded by lakes and farms as well as being home to the University of Wisconsin where back in the 1960's; Ben Sidran along with classmates Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs formed a rock band called The Ardells. Nothing came of the group and as Scaggs and Miller left Wisconsin for even greener pastures, Sidran carried on with his studies and his first love - jazz. Eventually he did leave Madison appearing on sessions with Boz, recording with and eventually joining the Steve Miller Band and it was Sidran who penned the immortal 'Space Cowboy', one of Miller's biggest hits as well as paying his dues in further session work with Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones and Spooky Tooth among other leading lights. Not happy just playing other artist's material, Sidran released his first solo album in 1970 developing a reputation as one of the best jazzbo's in the biz, but none of his records will have more appeal to Glory Daze readers with a penchant for west coast than 'The Cat In The Hat'.

The Songs
Sidran assembled an all-star cast for this album with an eye on smooth pop, combing old jazz standards from the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk and new material with a fresh and modern sound circa 1979. At times Sidran's phrasing has much in common with his old friend Boz Scaggs on songs like 'Ask Me Now' while 'Give It To The Kids' a Sidran original is a funky disco west coast mix with a backbeat similar to 'Rise'; Herb Alpert's massive single from the same year with blistering sax work from Michael Brecker. There are a couple gems on side two as well including the questionably titled 'Ballin' the Jack'. I don't think this was meant to be a double-entendre since it was originally written in 1913, but you never know lol! Here Sidran gives the song a spirited Manhattan Transfer vibe followed by the delightful 'Girl Talk' which was originally a major hit for crooner Tony Bennett. It's hard to miss with a classic tune like this, but Ben's version is one of the better I've heard with a lazy west coast feel that is simply superb.

In Summary
In my opinion with Al Jarreau's 'Breakin' Away' and The Crusaders 1979 classic 'Street Life', 'The Cat In Hat' is one of the best Jazz pop albums you'll come across. If you're looking for a diversion from the usual AOR/melodic rock fare or the significant other is begging you to play something different or else (!), this record is as good an option as any.

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