Chicago cornetist Ben Lamar Gay is one of the city's most adventurous and boundary-pushing performers with sound that touches upon avant-garde jazz, hip-hop, indie rock, Brazilian traditions, and experimental electronic composition. A member of the AACM, Gay (who also spent time traveling and living in Brazil) emerged in the 2000s singing and playing a variety of instruments. Most often, he works in the studio, layering his songs with overdubbed parts, as he did on his own Juba Dance album Orange. Over the years, he has proven himself to be an unpredictable artist with a wide-ranging stylistic ear, as evidenced by 2021's wildly inventive Open Arms to Open Us.
Raised on Chicago's South Side, Gay developed his cornet skills as a member of the respected AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). As a solo artist, he released the album Orange under the Juba Dance moniker. From there, he appeared on albums by a diverse range of artists from hip-hop performer Polyphonic the Verbose and jazz drummer Makaya McCraven to alternative R&B artist Coultrain. He has also collaborated with Jaimie Branch, Theo Parrish, Celso Fonseca, and others. In 2018, Gay collected a handful of his own unreleased tracks for his debut album, Downtown Castles Can Never Block the Sun, on International Anthem. A second full-length, Open Arms to Open Us, arrived in November 2021 and featured appearances from Angel Bat Dawid, Ohmme, Tomeka Reid, Tommaso Moretti, and others.