Ben Sidran

The Concert for García Lorca

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Ben Sidran's The Concert for García Lorca -- recorded in the late poet's homeland of Spain -- stands apart from virtually everything else in Sidran's already very diverse catalog. Not only is the packaging on this set beautiful (it's hardbound in a book with extensive notes and lush artwork), but Sidran's devotion to Lorca's work is total. He uses his own monologues about Lorca as well as the late poet's own words to reflect what he represents as an artist. They are parts of a magical meld moving from one selection to another, blurring present and past, art and humanity, the political and the social. Sidran's accompanists include tenor saxophonist Bobby Martinez, with that big warm tenor sound of his, as well as Manuel Calleja on bass and brother Leo Sidran on drums. The flow through tunes by Mose Allison ("Look Here") and George Gershwin ("It Ain't Necessarily So") into the theme of the concert is clever without being cloying or pretentious. The gig is full of an acute sense of timing -- especially when the band weaves its way into famous works by Lorca such as "On Duende" and "Defeating Death" as the pianist takes off into his own readings. Sidran's impeccable hipness in these dramatic juxtapositions also places several other standards, including "Lover Man" and "Freedom Jazz Dance," against the late poet's works and his autobiography Poet in New York to reflect his passion for his time spent in America and for American jazz. This is not only a fitting tribute to Federico García Lorca, but it is also a shining, truly original portrait of a very literate jazzman who has plenty of tricks and wonders up his sleeve, more than three decades after he began. Highly recommended if you can find it.

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