All Songs Considered

Ben LaMar Gay Soundtracks Southside Chicago With An Irregular Groove


Ben LaMar Gay's <em>Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun</em> comes out May 4.
Maren Celest, Courtesy of the artist

Ben LaMar Gay's Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun comes out May 4.

There is no one universe for Ben LaMar Gay, he just sonic booms from one sound to another. His solo debut, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun, is really a patch-work of seven albums, recorded over seven years but never released. It moves from fuzz-caked weirdo-psych to mutant synth-funk to giddy electronics to progressive jazz at a seamless, whiplash-free warp speed.

Shot by Maren Celest and animated with charcoal pencil, "Muhal" connects the historical dots of the Chicago jazz scene by featuring Bronzeville, the neighborhood that housed Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge. Ben LaMar Gay, born and raised in South Side Chicago, also pays tribute to Muhal Richard Abrams — the late pianist, composer, educator and co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians — by using his song titles as lyrics.

"Muhal" shuffles and sashays to an insistent beat, with synths and sax dotting exclamation points at at irregular intervals. Like Don Cherry in his early '90s cosmic-jazz-pop mode, it's the kind of groove that shouldn't hit a pocket, but tears a hole in the seams anyhow.

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Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun comes out May 4 via International Anthem.

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