Ben Tyree : guitar

Ben Tyree, Guitars

Gui­tarist Ben Tyree has the pow­er to move peo­ple. That state­ment could be con­strued in two dis­tinct­ly oppo­site ways – either the buoy­ant groove to get audi­ences out of their seats or the emo­tion­al depth to touch a listener’s soul – but Tyree is the rare case where both mean­ings are equal­ly applic­a­ble.

A prod­uct of the diverse Wash­ing­ton, DC music scene, Tyree is a per­former and com­pos­er of vir­tu­osic abil­i­ty, infec­tious groove, and eclec­tic tastes. All of those ele­ments are placed on stun­ning dis­play on his lat­est release, Burn It! LIVE, a blis­ter­ing live set from the Brook­lyn Acad­e­my of Music’s pres­ti­gious BAM­café Live series. Reveal­ing his mul­ti-faceted tal­ents, that album fol­lows his gor­geous, clas­si­cal­ly-influ­enced acoustic solo album Thought­form Vari­a­tions, ample evi­dence of his diver­si­ty and range.
Deter­mined to play the gui­tar since the age of four, Tyree stud­ied both jazz and clas­si­cal music in high school while writ­ing his own rock songs and going to jam ses­sions at blues clubs at night. He con­tin­ued his stud­ies at DC’s pres­ti­gious Duke Elling­ton School of the Arts and at Howard Uni­ver­si­ty before mov­ing to his cur­rent home, Brook­lyn, in 2002.

The tem­plate for his genre-hop­ping agili­ty was set by the pio­neer­ing Mis­cel­la­neous Flux, the band that Tyree co-found­ed in 1998 while still in DC. Refresh­ing­ly impos­si­ble to cat­e­go­rize, the group fused jazz, hip-hop and punk rock into a crowd-invig­o­rat­ing mix, releas­ing two EPs and a full-length album before dis­band­ing in 2005 fol­low­ing its mem­bers’ move to New York. Its acclaimed 2002 full-length CD, Dead in Dreams, won a “Wammie” (Wash­ing­ton Area Music Asso­ci­a­tion award) and gar­nered four oth­er nom­i­na­tions for the band, includ­ing Best Urban Con­tem­po­rary Instru­men­tal­ist for Tyree.

Tyree’s long­stand­ing trio BT3 con­tin­ues in that vein, graft­ing togeth­er jazz, funk and rock in often sur­pris­ing but always vig­or­ous fash­ion. The trio record­ed their debut CD, re:Vision, in 2010 with spe­cial guests John Medes­ki and DJ Log­ic, no strangers to bound­ary-blur­ring groove. The album also fea­tured tenor sax­o­phon­ists Sta­cy Dil­lard and V. Jef­frey Smith, both of whom reprise their roles on Burn It! LIVE.

His solo debut, Thought­form Vari­a­tions, dis­plays Tyree’s more intro­spec­tive side even while retain­ing his rec­og­niz­able stamp. The album con­sists of eight orig­i­nal pieces com­bin­ing clas­si­cal, jazz, pop and folk influ­ences into a rich, har­mo­nious sound. Evi­denc­ing influ­ences as var­ied as John McLaugh­lin, Michael Hedges, and J.S. Bach, the pieces also reflect the indeli­ble con­tri­bu­tions made by fam­i­ly, friends and events in his life.

Tyree’s stag­ger­ing ver­sa­til­i­ty and cre­ativ­i­ty is spot­light­ed by the wide-rang­ing list of col­lab­o­ra­tors with whom he’s worked, includ­ing artists as var­ied as Ver­non Reid, Kyp Mal­one (TV On The Radio), Nicholas Pay­ton, Dr. Cor­nel West, Res, Nomi, The Fam­i­ly Stand, Clark Ter­ry, Soul Under­stat­ed (fea­tur­ing Mavis “Swan” Poole) and Elliott Sharp’s Syn­daK­it, among oth­ers, shar­ing high-pro­file stages such as the Apol­lo, New York City’s Blue Note, Lin­coln Cen­ter, Ton­ic, DC’s Blues Alley, Fes­ti­val Sons d’Hiver (Paris, France), the Clif­ford Brown Jazz Fes­ti­val, Chenan­go Blues Fes­ti­val, Brook­lyn Hip Hop Fes­ti­val and the Kennedy Cen­ter.

In recent years he’s toured and record­ed with the pro­found­ly eclec­tic Burnt Sug­ar: The Arkestra Cham­ber as well as the uncat­e­go­riz­able Mem­phis singer-song­writer Valerie June, whose idio­syn­crat­ic blend of folk, blues, gospel, and soul have brought Tyree to the stages of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Show with David Let­ter­man. His com­po­si­tions have also tak­en the leap from stage to screen. He has scored sev­er­al inde­pen­dent films as well as pieces for tele­vi­sion that have appeared on ESPN and in adver­tis­ing cam­paigns for com­pa­nies like Green Team USA.