Cool School (The Music of Michael Franks) Leo Sidran
- 1Monkey See Monkey Do04:01
- 2Your Secret’s Safe with Me04:51
- 3The Lady Wants to Know03:44
- 4When the Cookie Jar Is Empty05:09
- 5Antonio's Song04:12
- 6The Cool School04:33
- 7Lotus Blossom04:47
- 8Popsicle Toes05:15
- 9Sometimes I Just Forget to Smile04:19
- 10Wrestle a Live Nude Girl04:44
- 11You Were Meant for Me04:14
Info for Cool School (The Music of Michael Franks)
In the song “The Cool School,” Michael Franks asks, “Am I dinosaur? Yeah you bet. I grew up listening to Mose and Chet [...] me I attended the Cool School.” In a few short lines he describes what many jazz fans today are feeling: he’s an insider, his influences are hip and classic, a member of a small club, the kind of club that is both impossible to join and to which everyone can belong.
For over 40 years Franks has been a classic practitioner of “cool” in America. Starting with his breakout album The Art of Tea in 1975, he has been playing with the edges between jazz and folk, samba and swing.
Born just a year after the release of that same album, multi-talented musician, producer, arranger, composer, recording artist, and podcast host Leo Sidran was also growing up attending the “cool school”. The son of renowned and multifaceted jazzman Ben Sidran, Leo was raised on a diet of “cool”: Jon Hendricks, Donald Fagen, Bob Dorough, Bill Withers, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Miles Davis, Tom Jobim, Joao Gilberto, certainly Mose (Allison) and Chet (Baker), and most of all, his father Ben.
Throughout his career, as a professional singer-songwriter (this is his 6th solo release) and producer of both Academy Award and Grammy winning songs, Leo’s place in the jazz world has been both obvious and confounding. Of his last studio record Mucho Leo the magazine Jazztimes wrote, “Vocally he suggests an amalgam of his father Ben with a hint of Donald Fagen. His fluid laidback style is reminiscent of Bob Dorough.” And the magaine L’Alsace, responding to Leo’s surprise summer hit song in France (“Speak to Me In Spanish”) heard him “in the mode of JJ Cale and Leonard Cohen, but with a taste for swing and bossa, the sound of cool and delicate groove.”
Hiding in plain sight is more or less de rigueur for Leo, whose music reflects that quiet cool Michael Franks wrote about. So maybe it was only a matter of time before he decided to bring his personal kind of freshness to the music of Michael Franks. Recorded in Brooklyn and in Paris, Cool School is a project that, like a well-cut prism, shows a multitude of beautiful facets depending on the power and clarity of the light shown on it.
At it’s core there is simply the pure sound of Leo performing Michael’s elegant songs with his typical classic swing, relaxed groove, and rich interior vocal harmonies, a mood made possible by the fact that the songs were, by and large, recorded in his own studio in his own space where he spent a relaxed several weeks cutting the tracks by himself, playing drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, vibraphone and percussion, fashioning music that was at once both funky and personal. He then arranged horns for a small group of New York’s young luminaries (John Ellis, Michael Leonhart, Ryan Keberle) and took the evolving tracks to Paris where he added intimate duets with singers Leo Minax, Chrystel Wautier and Clementine. Then, finally, returning back to the States, he enlisted Michael Franks himself to join him on the gorgeous and little-known composition, and now title track, “The Cool School”.
From it’s home-spun roots, the project continued to grow to include an international collaboration between Leo and many friends from all over the world: guitarist Lage Lund (Norway), harmonica player Olivier Ker (Reunion Island), bassist Alexis Cuadrado (Spain), percussionist Inor Sotolongo (Cuba), and various members of Leo’s Groovy French Band™. But in the end, the result, The Cool School; The Music of Michael Franks, is just as personal and intimate as that first moment when we heard Michael Franks singing these songs himself and we knew we were all part of a hip club that is both impossible to join and to which everyone can belong.
Leo Sidran, all instruments
Recorded by Leo Sidran at Electric Poodle Stoodles & Brooklyn & Studio Bernadette, Paris
Mixed by Ryan Hewitt at Nice Rack, Nashville
Produced and Arranged by Leo Sidran
Brooklyn based multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer Leo Sidran was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, which is sometimes referred to as 70 square miles surrounded by reality. His father, Ben, another multifaceted music man, provided his early musical sustenance. His mother, a weaver and travel agent, provided texture and safe passage.
Leo is releasing his fourth solo record in April. 2015. The appropriately titled “Mucho Leo” is his first in a decade, and when we say 'solo,' well, Sidran not only sings and plays everything on this new effort, he could also take credit for recording and mixing the album.
It makes complete sense, says Sidran, 'It's a very personal project, and after a long period of working behind the scenes, it's an important creative statement for me, but I also have a larger story to tell.'
We will tell at least some of it right now...
Sidran got his start writing songs professionally as a teenager when the Steve Miller Band recorded four of his songs for their 1993 Wide River album. Leo's father, Ben Sidran — a producer and jazz musician — was working with Miller at the time, which is how Leo made the connection, but even then, at the ripe old age of 15, he was interested in production. So, Steve invited him to play keyboards, guitars and drums on the record.
Subsequently, Leo attended the University of Wisconsin to study History and Spanish. During a year abroad living in Spain, he fell in love with Spanish music, and after college he spent quite a bit of time back and forth between his hometown of Madison, WI, and Madrid. During that time, Sidran developed a strong relationship with several Madrid-based 'Latin alternative' artists like Jorge Drexler and Ana Laan. Years later, Sidran would co-produce the Academy Award Winning song, 'Al Otro Lado Del Rio' from the film The Motorcycle Diaries for Jorge Drexler in 2005.
After the Oscar win, Leo made a move to Brooklyn and not only started producing records for other artists, but also composed music for film and television commercials amassing a catalog of over 100 major TV ads for clients like Coca-Cola, Visa, McDonalds, Stella, Ford, Garnier and a dozen film scores for outlets such as ESPN, Discovery, IFC, Sundance, and PBS.
In addition, around this time, Leo started a small label called Nardis Music with his father releasing solo projects by father and son, as well as some projects that the two produced for other artists, like Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown's original funky drummer). Leo has produced all of his dad's records for the last decade.
As a drummer, Sidran has played and recorded with jazz luminaries including Phil Woods, Howard Levy, David Fathead Newman, Clark Terry and Dave Grusin, and as an engineer he's recorded projects ranging from jazz great Mark Murphy to British duo Massive Attack.
To round out his penchant for curating the music he loves, earlier this year, Leo launched a podcast called The Third Story (www.third-story.com) in which he interviews musicians, producers, songwriters, and other friends in the creative class about their personal stories and professional journeys.
Mucho Leo is an important recording in the canon of Leo Sidran precisely because it pulls together and crystalizes Sidran's influences and passions, as one can hear strains of Leonard Cohen, Randy Newman, Michael Franks and Manu Chao, among others, but is also struck by the reality of a distinctive 'voice' and an illustrious history that has remained, to some extent, unsung up until now.
This album contains no booklet.