Ben Tyree : guitar

Ben Tyree

Ben Tyree

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. Whether nav­i­gat­ing the off-kilter angles of his abstract jazz-funk trio BT3 or ris­ing to the for­mi­da­ble tech­ni­cal and per­sonal chal­lenges of the classically-influenced acoustic solo pieces on his most recent release, Thought­form Vari­a­tions, he con­sis­tently proves him­self to be an artist with a dis­tinct and mem­o­rable voice.

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 D.C’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 D.C. 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.

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, and Elliot Sharp’s Syn­daKit, among oth­ers, shar­ing high-profile stages such as the Apollo, New York City’s Blue Note, Lin­coln Cen­ter, Tonic, D.C.’s Blues Alley and the Kennedy Cen­ter. He per­forms reg­u­larly with Stephanie Rooker & the Search Engine, Soul Under­stated (fea­tur­ing Mavis “Swan” Poole), Michael Veal’s Aqua Ife, and Burnt Sugar: The Arkestra Cham­ber to name a few.

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.