Ben Tyree: Thoughtform Variations
There's arguably no more baring of a studio situation than an acoustic
guitarist recording an unaccompanied instrumental CD, since it involves no
effects, amplification or vocals to clothe the otherwise naked
performances. And there may have been no less likely a guitarist to choose
that path for his solo recording debut, Thoughtform Variations, than
Brooklyn-based Ben Tyree.
The Washington, D.C. native had previously recorded with his highly-electric
jazz/hip-hop/punk hybrid band Miscellaneous Flux before moving to New York,
and his equally-charged current BT3 fusion trio's 2010 debut, re:Vision,
featured guest organist John Medeski and turntable master DJ Logic.
Think of Thoughtform Variations as an acoustic fusion CD that's influenced
by guitarists like John McLaughlin and Michael Hedges, and you're in the
ballpark. Yet other influences, and styles, are also in play. The opening
Soliloquy includes flamenco elements, plus Tyree accompanying himself
with intermittent percussive taps on the body of his guitar (which pop up
often in his performances), while the subsequent No Wrong Turns
alternates between funk-inspired strumming and Baroque picking and tapping.
What May Come To Be, inspired by Tyree's father, continues that theme. Its
lines weave together in a Bach-like form to showcase the influence of his
father's listening tastes, which eventually led the impressionable young
musician to study classical guitar in both high school and college. Those
elements also pop up in the otherwise grooving Bish (shortened from
Bullshittin' With Bean), Tyree's dedication to friend, drummer and
bandleader Jeremy Bean Clemons.
The nine-minute David is Tyree's ode to his late stepfather, and the
lengthy piece's serpenting sections alternately illustrate the joy of their
relationship and the sorrow of it ending too soon. The disc's other
nine-minute opus, Dmanisi, is a whirlwind of experimental two-handed
ambidexterity that practically requires video to prove that Tyree could've
performed it alone.
Tyree indicates in the liner notes that he chose to go the solo acoustic
route specifically because it was so unpredictable, and his dreamy Thought
Forms and jaw-dropping closer The Gatekeeper certainly couldn't have
been scripted. Through his alternate tunings, improvisational capabilities,
dazzling technique and percussive attack, Tyree makes Thoughtform
Variations a thought-provoking debut, indeed.
Ben Tyree (acoustic guitar)
2. No Wrong Turns
3. What May Come To Be
6. Thought Forms
8. The Gatekeeper