Ben Tyree: Thoughtform Variations (2012)
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
In stark contrast to the psychedelic funk rock of re: Vision (2010, Sonic Architectures), Brooklyn-based guitarist Ben Tyree eschews pyrotechnic effects and performs literally naked on his solo acoustic debut, Thoughtform Variations, showing enough imagination and finger-picking stylizations to satisfy both six-string enthusiasts and casual listeners.
These original pieces were conceived eight years ago as experiments, and display a virtuosity and breath reminiscent of guitarists Michael Hedges and Alex de Grassi's 1980s-'90s work for Windham Hill Records, as well as his multitalented contemporary, Kaki King. Elaborate changes are equally balanced with picturesque melodies, as Tyree shows a fondness for both the abstract and the pastoral in "No Wrong Turns" as its closing phrase fades to black.
The range of emotions and contours in the set is striking. A Bach-like motif evolves into something entirely different in "What May Come," a gregarious piece dedicated to Tyree's father who also loved classical music. But there's also a rustic gaucho swagger in the title with an array of colors that include progressive chords, fingered harmonics, and blazing runs.
"David" and "Dmanisi" are two of the set's longer pieces, featuring melodic arcs with plenty of fireworks in between. Yet the set is a far cry from conventional solo guitar chops/ballads fare, and ends accordingly with "The Gatekeeper" which is darkly lit and moody yet, like its predecessors, brimming with ideas. Armed with only an acoustic guitar and endless possibilities, Tyree may be unplugged this time around but the music is still electric.
Track Listing: Soliloquy; No Wrong Turns; What May Come to Be; Bish; David; Thought Forms; Dmanisi; The Gatekeeper.
Personnel: Ben Tyree: solo acoustic guitar.
Record Label: Sonic Architectures
Style: Modern Jazz