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.