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Chris Tarry by Brent-Anthony Johnson

When I first heard that Chris Tarry was releasing “Almost Certainly Dreaming”, his 2007 follow-up to the previous year’s” Sorry To Be Strange”, and the 8th release under his own name, I had to get his unwaveringly humorous look into the process that brought about the this latest result of his mind boggling prolificacy!  Chris relocated to NYC in 2003 from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and has been incredibly busy playing with John Scofield, Ben Monder, Mino Cinelu, Dave Binney, Jim Rotondi Group, Keith Carlock, Anton Fig, Donny McCaslin, Lew Soloff, Chris Cheek, and Oz Noy.

BAJ: Hi Chris!  Congratulations on your Juno Award for “Almost Certainly Dreaming”!  What was different about how this disc came together?

CT: Hey BAJ, how are ya?   Long time no chat…  Lets see… “Almost Certainly Dreaming” came together in one very different way – as it was recorded live in the studio in basically one day.  Which, I guess, is a little different from how some of my albums were made in the past (time-wise that is).  We did it the “ol’ fashioned way”… we just went in and played the music live off the floor.

BAJ:  I think it’s funny you’ve had such a tremendous career in Canada, yet most US listeners remember you from Metalwood – the US/Canadian group!  What has changed for you since relocating to NYC?

CT:  I guess what’s changed is the variety of kinds of gigs I get to do.  In New York I play with so many different types of players and all types of music.  Moving to New York has made me a more well rounded player, I think.

BAJ:  Who are the current players in the Chris Tarry Group?  Also, does the group morph as you spend a great deal of time on the road?

CT:  It’s been the same core group of players for the last few years.  Dan Weiss (drums), Henry Hey (piano), Pete McCann (guitar), and Kelly Jefferson (sax).  Kelly is the only non-New Yorker, so when we do gigs in the city it’s usually Dave Binney or Donny McCaslin who fill in.  The group is such a tight bunch of guys, not only musically, but personally as well.  The music is always growing, morphing, we never really play a tune the same way twice! We always try and push ourselves each and every night.

BAJ:  Okay man, let’s do the gear/tools thing…  what are you using in the realm of basses, amps, effects, and recording tools and process?  Also, what is you take on endorsements?

CT:  I dig the endorsement thing and I’m fortunate to have a few endorsements of gear that I actually really like to use! I recently switched to Markbass amps and really enjoy the sound of them.  I also really dig the company! Everyone there helps hook me up with amps on the road and around the world! Markbass is just terrific!  I  also use DR Strings “Sunbeam 5” string set – having switched to them a few years ago… and love them!
As far as basses, for my gig I mostly use my Fodera Emperor 5-string.  For gigs as a sideman I use a bunch of different basses.  My current favorites are the bright orange sparkle bass made for me by Jimmy Copolo, and a baby blue four string jazz bass made for me by the great Carey Nordstrand.  I also use my four string 65′ P bass on a lot of stuff.

BAJ:  I was listening to your composition, “Same Clothes, Different Day” while running errands the other day… What a great tune!  What is your composing process and what inspires you to write?

CT:  Well thanks! “Same Clothes, Different Day” was written by keyboardist Henry Hey specifically for the band. It figures…  (laughs) Generally, though, with composing I spend a lot of time playing things into the computer via Apple Garage Band or some type of other sequencing software.  Once I get the tune to where I want it I make a lead sheet, send the guys an mp3… and we just get to work playing it, taking it in, and messing with it.  I generally give the band stuff in lead sheet format to keep the music as open to interpretation as possible.  I never tell anyone what to play.  These guys are in my band because of how they sound, and I never try and stifle that energy.  I play in a lot of bands where the leader is very uptight and trying to control everything…  This is not the way to build a great band! You have to let the music happen, and trust the players around you.

BAJ:  Other than the release of “ACD” what else are you working on to promote your incredible playing ability?  Will there ever be an instructional DVD?  Along those lines, your soloing approach (and touch) nod heavily to a couple players.  Who are you primary influences?

CT:  The band actually just did a DVD that may see the light of day sometime soon.  There are also some instructional aspects to the DVD that may be included in a new book I’m working on.  Have been talking to a friend at a big publishing company that’s helping me put it all together.  Stay tuned for some word on that!
(Editor Note: When I know, Bass Musician Magazine will know!)

As far as influences… Well there are many!  Most of who aren’t bass players (piano, sax, etc..) at all!  But of course I spent a lot of time checking out the greats.  I’ve been really into Pino Palidino, lately, and old R&B guys!  I’m always trying to grow, get better, and become better rounded.

BAJ:  As you do spend so much time on the road, how do you attempt balance?  Are you still into mountain biking and being in Nature, in general?

CT:  Not so much of the mountain biking thing lately – as a good friend of mine broke both his arms and it kind of scared me!  But I am still really into hiking! In fact, we’re heading off for a vacation next week, to hike the famous John Muir trail in California: 211 miles in 11 days, 6 peaks over 10,000 feet.  I’ve been preparing for that quite a bit over the past year!  It’s hard to keep up with the training on the road. I try my best, a lot of running, going to the gym in the hotel… and drinking beer late into the night.

BAJ: In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of leading a group and what is a valuable tip you’ve gained from being led by other great musicians?

CT:  I think my work as a sideman – in great, and not so great situations – has taught me how to be a good leader.  I know how I want to be treated as a sideman, so I treat my guys that way.  It’s hard to be away from home.  But if you, as a leader, can make it as painless as possible and have the rest of the band trust that you’re looking out for their best interest’s at all time… it makes a big difference.

A few golden rules: 
Everyone always gets his or her own hotel room
No connecting flights
Sound Check as late as possible
Travel with as little gear as possible
Never talk about the music… let it happen
Have fun

BAJ:  What is the coolest sideman gig you’ve ever played… and why?

CT:  Wow, there’s been a few.  One of the best is not with someone who’s actually that famous but is a great leader and good friend: New York jazz trumpeter Jesse Selengut and his band Noir.  He took us to Kenya, Africa for three weeks last year and it was one of the best organized, and most life changing, tours I’ve ever been on! The places we played, the people we met, the care he took of the band… really, really amazing.

BAJ:  How often do you allow yourself to simply listen to music?  What is your favorite disc at this writing?

CT:  I’ve been slightly lax in listening over the past few months as my schedule has been pretty grueling!  Which is odd… because I’m always generally listening a lot.  As of late though I’d have to say I really dig the new Viktor Krauss solo album, and the new Avashi Cohen.

BAJ:  Thank you for joining me at Bass Musician Magazine, Chris!  What’s next for you?

CT: Hey BAJ thanks for having me, it is always a pleasure!  What’s next?  Well… after a long few months of touring with a bunch of different acts (as well as with my own band) I’m taking a few weeks off to hike the John Muir trail at the end of July and then my wife and I are heading to China for a few weeks during the Olympics.  I’m excited about that!  It’s going to be pretty amazing!  Man cannot live on bass alone and life experiences like these go a long way to making me a stronger musician! Thanks again man, we’ll see ya on the flip side!

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