Date: August 14, 2014
Venue: Spike Hill (NY)
Review by Dawoud Kringle
Photos and videos by Dawoud courtesy of BT3
Williamsburg Brooklyn in the summer. Nothing like it; a perfect night to hear some live music. On this night, I ventured into Spike Hill to hear BT3 .
BT3 is the brainchild of guitarist Ben Tyree. A graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts and at Howard University in Washington DC, he formed Miscellaneous Flux, a band that fused jazz, hip-hop and punk. They released two EPs and a full-length album before disbanding in 2005 following its members’ move to New York. Tyree formed BT3, recorded their debut CD, re:Vision in 2010 with special guests John Medeski, DJ Logic, Stacy Dillard and V. Jeffrey Smith. Tyree also released a solo CD Thoughtform Variations, and collaborated with Vernon Reid, Kyp Malone, Nicholas Payton, Dr. Cornel West, Res, Nomi, The Family Stand, Clark Terry, Soul Understated (featuring Mavis “Swan” Poole), Burnt Sugar: The Arkestra Chamber, Valerie June, and Elliott Sharp’s SyndaKit, among others. He has performed at the Apollo, New York City’s Blue Note, Lincoln Center, Tonic, DC’s Blues Alley, Festival Sons d’Hiver (Paris, France), the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Chenango Blues Festival, Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival and the Kennedy Center, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and the Late Show with David Letterman, scored several independent films, and composed music for ESPN.
Tyree was joined by Kevin Farrel
on bass and Jeremy “Bean” Clemons on drums. Farrell, a native of Californian Kevin Farrell moved to New York to work for a production studio in Manhattan composing short tunes for Sony’s music archive. He holds an M.M., University of Southern California and a B.F.A., California Institute of the Arts, Clemmons hails from St. Louis, MO, studied at North Carolina Central University (earning a BM and BA in jazz studies), and with Ira Wiggins, Arnold George, and Thomas Taylor. He’d played with people such as Andy Bey and DJ Carl Craig.
They opened with some glacial guitar chords gliding through extended harmonies, with the drums and bass floating in a spacey rubato. This came together in a guitar riff that made way for the main body of the song. Drums and bass produced a heavy groove, and a Mahavishnu type head emerged. Tyree took an exploratory solo, and the bass and drums had their say.
The song ended and, without pause, the bass began an angular line that became a funk type groove, which the drums played in and around. As the guitar joined them it became obvious this was a blues. After some fun with unexpected rhythmic accents and bold harmonic substitutions, a two note bass ostinato and spacey drum groove emerged over which the guitar let loose weird electronic processing with his ring modulator, answered by an impressive drum solo.
This guitar returned with a beautiful jazz solo, which led into a marvelously syncopated fusion piece.
After a brief break, they came back swinging with a song that sounded like what would have happened had Jimi Hendrix written “Manic Depression” after a year of study with Ted Greene, and with Stanley Clarke and Alan White in the rhythm section.
They concluded the set with another face melting display of musical pyrotechnics.
Tyree’s guitar work displays an astonishing command of the instrument and imaginative use of jazz theory in a power trio setting. Barry Ferrell’s bass work is solid and has a melodic sensibility that frames and contributes to the essence of a song well. Clemons is a powerhouse drummer. He’s one if these guys whose work is best displayed in a trio like BT3, and any musician playing with him is well advised to either keep up, or stand clear.
BT3 proves they are masters of their musical craft. The trio’s music harkens to the days when fusion was new, exciting and fun; reinterpreting it in a new context.