Anyone whose heard Ben Tyree and BT3’s debut album re:Vision from 2010 could tell that this funk/jazz/rock combo was built for live performance. Even though re:Vision was taped in the studio, the stage feel permeated throughout, and helped to make this album an uncommonly forceful and immediate introduction to the band. Still, a live record would make a lot of sense for BT3, wouldn’t it?
Guitar extraordinaire Tyree thought so, too. On September 9, 2014, BT3 will issue its long-awaited follow-up, and boy, it’s a live one. In both senses of the phrase.
BT3: Burn It! LIVE, which was actually recorded around the time re:Vision came out, could justifiably called re:Vision Live, since the same nine songs on the studio album appear on the live album, although the order is rejiggered somewhat. Lawrence Qualls is on drums for both records, but Kevin Farrell replaces Theo Harden and Steve Jenkins for the live document.
The band kicks off the set with heavyweight material. “The Roots Run Deep” is real jazz gurgling underneath a heady fusion veneer, and after Farrell quietly meditates on his bass for a while, Tyree steps up front and delivers a righteously funky solo followed by a fierce, blues-inflected rocking one. The festive Brazilian romp “Telekinesis” doesn’t stop Tyree from shredding again, arguably with more passion than on the prior song. Qualls demonstrates an ability to shift tempos and rhythmic patterns on the fly on “Acquisition” and is rewarded with a climatic drum solo within this free-form performance. “Shapeshifter” doesn’t seem to suffer from the absence of John Medeski’s organ from the studio version, because the base trio can bring the slow burn quite well on its own.
Medeski’s not there, but the other guest artists from re:Vision reprise their roles for their respective songs. Stacy Dillard’s tenor sax give the slanted funk of “Dizzle McSizzle” a soulful lift, and V. Jeffrey Smith lends his own tenor sax to the syncopated, uptight groove that is “Because We Can.” The show ends with a tune that’s as knotty as the one with which they began, with the jaggedly funky “Drop Back.” Appropriately, Tyree uses the last tune to rip the roof off with some virtuosic guitar.
Live in front of an audience is how this music demands to be played, if the musicians are good enough. Ben Tyree and BT3 are way more than ‘good enough’ on BT3: Burn It! LIVE.