Ben LaMar Gay
In Open Arms to Open Us, a new album co-released by International Anthem and Nonesuch, the composer, singer, and “postmodern folklorist” Ben LaMar Gay fluently interweaves jazz, blues, R&B, raga, new music, Tropicália, hip-hop, and much more in imaginative arrangements suffused with his “wise and confiding baritone” (The New York Times).
Playing cornet, keyboards, flutes, and percussion, the Chicago polymath—with drummer Tommaso Moretti, tubist Matthew Davis, and woodwind player Rob Frye—also enlisted collaborators such as OHMME singers Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, Rwandan artist Dorothée Munyaneza, poet A.Martinez, cellist Tomeka Reid, and vocalists Onye Ozuzu, Gira Dahnee, and Angel Bat Dawid. Explaining the album’s title, Gay said that it is “a suggestion of a body movement that is used in many spiritual practices” and deals with rhythm as an “inheritance of information—sort of like DNA or RNA.”
Open Arms to Open Us follows Gay’s critically acclaimed 2018 debut album, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun, which was celebrated by Pitchfork, NPR, and The Guardian (“a record of endless depth and unpredictability”). But albums are only a part of Gay’s artistry. He has also composed for dance companies such as the Ruth Page Civic Ballet, scored films such as the award-winning documentary The Good Fight, and explored Chicago’s Black social dances using video art and dance at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.