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Ben Tyree/BT3: Burn it! LIVE

Ian Patterson By

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Even prior to moving to New York from his native Washington DC in 2002 Ben Tyree was genre-bending in Miscellaneous Flux, fusing hip-hop, jazz and punk vocabulary. His outright debut as leader, re:Vision (Sonic Architectures, 2010) was a hard-grooving take on contemporary jazz-fusion featuring DJ Logic and John Medeski. That template flew out the window on Thoughtform Variations (Sonic Architectures, 2012), a bold solo acoustic venture of sophisticated harmonics and alternative tunings that drew on jazz, folk, blues and classical influences. Tyree's trajectory thus far, it seems, has been onwards and upwards, which is what makes the retro release Burn It! LIVE something of an oddity.

Recorded in 2010 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Burn It! LIVE is essentially a live version of BT3:re:vision, with Tyree, bassist Kevin Farrell and drummer Lawrence Qualls ripping it up. Naturally, the music sounds raw compared to the more finely sculpted studio version but the mixing isn't always great and the overall sound is a little muddy; on the bebopish "Acquisition"—where Tyree's searing blues-inflected lines reveal his admiration for Bud Powell and Charlie Parker—the thumping bass drum is annoyingly prominent in the mix.

Sound technicalities aside, however, the playing is uniformly impressive, with the trio steering between delicate intricacy and full-on, power-trio charge, as on "The Roots Run Deep." Tenor saxophonists V. Jeffrey Smith and Stacy Dillard reprise their re:Vision roles and bring an irrepressible jazz-funk groove to the mix. Dillard blows hard on the funk-heavy, rhythmically dense "Dizzle McSizzle" before Tyree unleashes a fuzz-edged solo that goes straight for the jugular. The infectious "Because We Can"—bookended by a killing saxophone/guitar motif—follows suit, with Smith's billowing lines giving way seamlessly to Tyree's foot-to-the-floor metal volley.

Tyree's percussive drive is as significant a part of his vocabulary as his searching improvisations and he forms an intuitive rhythm team with Farrell and Qualls. The trio's rhythmic chemistry is pronounced on the jam-like "Telekinesis," where bassist and drummer really get to stretch out. The trio is persuasive at slower tempos too, as on the laid-back intro to "Song of Hope" and "The Search," where lyricism is to the fore. Both tracks see the trio patiently build towards increasingly assertive narratives, notably on the latter where Tyree's initially delicate fretwork contrasts with the intense Robert Fripp-esque soundscapes and stormy percussion that follows.

Tyree has the knack of penning memorable melodic hooks and the head to the slow-burning "Shapeshifter" is another fine example. The guitarist moves between smoking blues and avant-garde pedal effects in a lively extended passage before revisiting the seductive opening motif one final time. A gutsy set concludes with the up-tempo "Drop Back," where tight trio interplay paves the way for one of Tyree's most expansive and blistering solos.

BT3's tightly woven musical storybook bristles with energy and seduces with equally deft passages of unabashed lyricism. Burn It! LIVE undoubtedly serves as a powerful document of where Tyree's trio was at the beginning of the decade, yet four years after the release of re:Vision a more contemporary live recording might have told an even more compelling tale.

Track Listing: The Roots Run Deep; Telekinesis; Acquisition; Shapeshifter; Dizzle McSizzle; The Search; Because We Can; A Song of Hope; Drop Back.

Personnel: Ben Tyree; guitar; Kevin Farrell; bass; Lawrence Qualls: drums; V. Jeffrey Smith; tenor saxophone (7); Stacy Dillard: tenor saxophone (5).

Title: Burn it! LIVE | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Sonic Architectures


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