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Ben Lamar Gay – Open Arms To Open Us (2021 24/44 FLAC)

Ben Lamar Gay - Open Arms To Open Us (2021 24/44 FLAC)

Ben Lamar Gay – Open Arms To Open Us (2021 24/44 FLAC)

Artist: Ben Lamar Gay
Album: Open Arms To Open Us
Release/Reissue: 2021
Genre: Jazz

01. Sometimes I Forget How Summer Looks on You (feat. Ohmme)
02. Hood Rich Happy
03. Bang Melodically Bang
04. Aunt Lola and the Quail
05. Mestre Candeia’s Denim Hat
06. Oh Great Be The Lake
07. I Be Loving Me Some Of You
08. Nyuzura (feat. Dorothée Munyaneza)
09. Slightly Before The Dawn
10. Lean Back.Try Igbo (feat. Onye Ozuzu)
11. Dress Me In New Love
12. Touch. Don’t Scroll (feat. Ayanna Woods)
13. I Once Carried A Blossom (feat. A.Martinez)
14. In Tongues And In Droves (feat. Tomeka Reid)
15. S’Phisticated Lady (feat. Gira Dahnee and Angel Bat Dawid)
16. We Gon Win

Ben LaMar Gay’s primary instrument is the cornet and hails from Chicago’s historically vibrant scene of daring musical improvisers. These two facts alone have put him in the same conversation as several other “new American jazz saviors” who are blazing trails in the genre. And while Gay is certainly doing that, the depth, breadth, and reach of his work has pushed him far beyond any traditional notions of jazz or what its practitioners can accomplish. Gay is steeped in the possibilities of improvisation and instrumental interplay, but also interested in storytelling via his music, giving his works a philosophical and compositional solidity that’s more akin to contemporary classical music than anything else. Heck, he plays cornet on fewer than half of the tracks here, opting instead for percussion instruments, synthesizers, and even a zither. With Open Arms to Open Us, Gay is even more daring in his approach and uncompromising in his vision than on his previous releases, but also profoundly more focused from a thematic and compositional aspect; it is an ambitious album, by an ambitious artist at the peak of their powers and it absolutely should be his breakout moment.

Opener “Sometimes I Forget How Summer Looks On You,” is a richly melodic slice of lyrically beautiful cosmic funk featuring vocals by Ohmme’s Macie Stewart and Sima Cunningham and dizzying drumwork by drummer Tommaso Moretti. It’s followed by “Hood Rich Happy,” a loping, groove-oriented interlude that’s half distortion, half smooth jazz, and then the griot-esque “Bang Melodically Bang.” The relatively straightforward nature of this opening salvo soon unfolds into a much more expansive universe of rhythm-forward exploration starting with “Aunt Lola and the Quail,” which evokes a pastoral trance that’s part cultural imprint, part universal truth. Whether the sounds of rope skipping, looping drum programs, or jazz percussion, rhythm drives everything forward, acting as a cultural throughline from Gay’s family roots into the present and on toward the future. “Lean Back. Try Igbo” and “S’Phsticated Lady (featuring Gira Dahnee and Angel Bat Dawid),” both under two minutes, are astonishingly fully formed ideas built upon innovative rhythms; they are integral to the work, even if they don’t feel like “proper” songs. “In Tongues and In Droves” is a dense, immersive clash between psychedelic loops and spiritual improvisation. Even on a cut like the lovely and intense “Nyuzura,” where rhythm isn’t the focal point, Gay unmoors the piece from place and time by coupling a singer of African origin (Rwandan vocalist Dorothée Munyaneza) with his own zither-playing and a bass synth. So yes, Gay moves through many different modalities and atmospheres throughout the album, but it is still remarkably consistent and deeply considered, showing that he’s gone fully beyond being even jazz-adjacent and into a new realm of emotionally rich musical storytelling built upon thoughtful composition and inventive improvisation.

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