Guitar • Lute • Banjo
• 1940 — 2010
Often appears with
James Tyler is famed for his skill as a Renaissance and Baroque lutenist and viol player, but he also performs and records on the mandolin, the cittern, and even the banjo (more on that later). Tyler was born in Hartford, CT, in 1940 and attended the Hartt College of Music in that same city; he took lessons from lutenist Joseph Iadone on the side, and in 1962 made his first professional appearance in a concert by the New York Pro Musica. A few years later he traveled to Munich, joining the Studio der frühen Musik for a time, and then in 1969 he moved (semi-permanently) to Britain in order to play with the Early Music Consort and Reservata Musica. He co-founded the highly-praised Consort of Musicke, and also performed extensively with the Julian Bream Consort. Those who had followed Tyler's early music career were shocked to learn in 1974 that he had formed a ragtime quintet called the New Excelsior Talking Machine, picking up the banjo and setting it aflame to the strains of Scott Joplin and others; one supposes that the principles of informed historical performance practice are the same whether one is talking about Renaissance music or turn-of-the-twentieth-century music. In 1976, Tyler founded the London Early Music Group, reminding people that he hadn't abandoned his usual stomping ground.
James Tyler has wielded a heavy influence on several generations of early music performers. As a virtuoso on plucked instruments -- lute, mandolin, and, yes, banjo -- his playing has time and again proven to be the life of whatever ensemble he happens to be performing with (and there have been many in addition to the ones listed above). He has managed to impart something of his energetic manner to the students at the early music program at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and his books -- which include The Early Guitar (Oxford, 1980) and The Early Mandolin (Oxford 1989) -- are lucid and insightful.