Jazzfest Berlin 2022: Short Interview with Ben LaMar Gay

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Jazzfest Berlin is just around the corner. From 3rd to 6th November over 150 artists will come together in different locations all over Berlin to celebrate jazz music in all of its forms. One of the performing artists is Ben LaMarGay. In anticipation of Jazzfest, the American musician answered some questions about his musical ambition, Brazilian culture and the element of water being a staple of his musical output.

Your studies in music education involved six years of work as a music teacher in Chicago. How come that you turned your attention to producing your own music?

With the type of exploration that I involve myself in, there is no division between teaching and performing. I’ve always wanted to share my experience through sound. The spaces may change from classroom to concert hall, but the intentions remain the same, standing side by side and embracing each other.

For several years you got involved with the numerous sounds and the culture of Brazil. How did you integrate these into your music?

My music deals with my life experience, of course. The Brazilian impressions integrate themselves just like the Chicago impressions do, with my entire person being inside of a moment, reflecting on a moment, interacting with others inside of a moment, and connecting moments to moments. Brazil was my first portal to the world outside of the U.S. bubble. It helped me understand a different human experience, a different Black experience, and a different American experience. These impressions find themselves in my projection of life and sound without plans.

The element of water is a recurring motif in some of your tracks – for example “Swim Swim” and “Oh Great Be The Lake”. What aesthetic value does it have for you and are there more natural influences that inspire you?

Chicago’s terrain is often considered flat. However, most folks forget about the giant hole in the earth just east of the city, Lake Michigan. This inland freshwater sea supplies Chicago with all the shape it needs. I’ve lived my entire life by a large body of water. The value of the relationship between your body and the fluid openness of a large body of water reminds you that the most beautiful thing to be involved with is freedom.

You will be performing at Jazzfest together with Edinho Gerber, Matt Davis and Tommaso Moretti. How did you guys meet and what can we expect to hear?

We all met inside of sound at different crossroads of our journey. Our curiosity and the similar way we engage ourselves in listening and storytelling are what help us rock together. So you can expect a wonderful tale that has traveled for thousands of years from the future’s past to embrace your ears and fantasies.

Jazzfest Berlin invites over 150 acts. You are going to be one of them. Who are you most excited to see perform? Is there someone who inspires you? 

I’m looking forward to being in the orbit of Hamid Drake, Matana Roberts, Tomeka Reid, Jeff Parker, Isaiah Collier, Immanuel Wilkins, Asher Gamedze, Craig Taborn, and Quartabe. These people and their sounds help me dream deeper and deeper.

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