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Take Five With Ben Tyree

Ben Tyree By

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Guitar (electric and acoustic).

Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers: I learned the basics and how to structure songs, as well as recording techniques, from Rachel-Ann Cross. Tom Newman taught me how to play in the pocket as well as helped me develop advanced harmonic concepts. He also instilled within me a love of jazz. From Gerry Kunkel, I absorbed more advanced improvisational concepts, reading, and my classical technique, also more mindful and conscious approaches towards practicing and improvising. Mike Stern instilled in me solid-steadier timing, as well as concepts based on chromatic approaches to chords tones while improvising, comping approaches, and most importantly playing and living from the heart.

Influences: Listening to Jimi Hendrix makes me remember to always be passionate and to be "me" to the fullest. John McLaughlin's music really helps me get my chops together, and inspires me to immerse myself in many styles. His spiritual fire comes through in his music and continues to help fuel my growth. John Coltrane: what more can be said? Studying this man's work continues to expand my concepts of music and life. Learning Trane solos on guitar has definitely opened up realms that I would have never imagined were there. I have a deep affinity for Bud Powell's music and voice. Studying his improvisations have opened up a whole new world to me and he has a sick pocket—one of my most profound musical/spiritual experiences had a lot to do with internalizing his energy and approach.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when... When I saw Frank Zappa at the Warner Theatre in DC with my mom in 1987. His command of the audience and band was captivating and mesmerizing. I knew I wanted to be a performer for the rest of my life. The next day I went to school late, tired and instead of my completed homework assignment, I had a note from my mother explaining that, my son was late and without homework because we took him to see Frank Zappa last night and we felt it an important experience for him... " My teacher laughed, read the note and the whole class then laughed. I, indeed, shall have the last laugh as I am the only person I know who is my age and has seen Zappa.

Your dream band:

First dream band would be an organ trio playing some of my original compositions. The feel would be like Tony Williams' Lifetime but with more modern/electronica sensibilities. It would feature myself on electric guitar, John Medeski (organ), my favorite drummer and great friend Jeremy "Bean" Clemons and possibly the augmentation of Stacy Dillard (tenor saxophone).

I also had one of my dream bands, Miscellaneous Flux. We disbanded due to logistical problems but the 2004 lineup consisted of myself on electric guitar, Ameen Saleem (bass), Ryan Weaver (Fender Rhodes), Rashad Dobbins (voice) and Clemons (drums). This was the killin'-est band I've ever played with.

Did you know...

I performed A Midsummer Night's Dream in a junior Shakespeare troupe in 1990 before H.M. Queen Elizabeth II at the Foldger Theatre in DC. My dad has enlarged photos of myself with Her Majesty hung up all over his home.

By Day:

By day, I spend my time exploring my instrument. It is very important to me to not work outside of my discipline. In addition to gigging with my own projects and freelancing, I do studio sessions, teach private lessons for guitar and electric bass, and score and record for independent films. I also write for two publications: Ugly Planet Media and Modern Guitars Magazine, the latter of which I have featured interviews with Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest and Mike Stern.


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