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StLJN Saturday Video Showcase: Spotlight on Ben LaMar Gay


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This week, let's take a look at some videos featuring Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist Ben LaMar Gay, who's coming to St. Louis to perform in a concert presented by New Music Circle on Saturday, October 5 at Off Broadway.

While Gay has been working in Chicago's busy improvised music scene for a while, he gained a new level of national recognition in 2018 with the release of Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun, his first “official" album as a solo artist.

Drawing on a catalog of material recorded over seven years but previously unreleased, the album incorporates influences from Chicago's free-jazz tradition, Brazilian music, and much more, moving “from fuzz-caked weirdo-psych to mutant synth-funk to giddy electronics to progressive jazz at a seamless, whiplash-free warp speed," according to NPR.

Gay, who sings as well as playing cornet, electronics, percussion, and more, has deployed his eclectic approach to music in a variety of projects, and today's collection of videos documents a few of them, starting up above with a video of his performance of “Lamps," recorded in January of this year at DJ Gilles Peterson's Worldwide Awards in London.

You can see an excerpt from a performance by Gay's quartet Satchel Monarchs in August 2019 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, followed by a short snippet from his solo performance last January at Nublu in New York City during NYC's annual Winter Jazz Festival.

Next is a video of “Creeks," an improv theatrical piece by Gay and filmmaker Ben Kolak that was performed and recorded in 2016 at Constellation in Chicago, IL.

That's followed by “Muhal," a short film created in 2018 by Gay (who contributed to the visuals as well as composing the music) and filmmaker/animator Maren Celest. The film pays tribute to Chicago pianist and composer Muhal Richard Abrams and to saxophonist Fred Anderson, whose club, the Velvet Lounge, was located in the Bronzeville neighborhood where much of the footage was shot.

The last two videos feature Gay doing improvised duets with two different musicians. The penultimate clip shows him and cellist/composer Lilianna Zofia Wosko performing in September 2018 at Experimental Sound Studio in Chicago.

Then the final clip captures Gay and multi-instrumentalist Jayve John Montgomery in aperformance for the August 2017 solar eclipse, presented in a barn in Perry County, MO.

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