Chris Trinidad talks with bassist
and ActiveBass co-creator, Chris Tarry about
solo albums, Vancouver, Metalwood, and, of
I first met Chris Tarry as a first year electric bass
student at Capilano College, a jazz studies program
located in North Vancouver, BC, Canada. He was
onstage, giving a clinic with his group Metalwood and I
proceeded to experience an incredibly profound
With a 5 string fretless Hozono in
hand and an Eden Rig with a flat EQ setting, notes of
golden proportions began to fill the theatre. I was
experiencing the sound
. It was the sound
which was to inspire me to look at the electric bass in a
different light and to see that it too had its place in
creative, improvisational music.
After a few more years
of checking out his various gigs and attempting to
emulate his sound, I asked our Jazz Studies
coordinator if there was room for him on the faculty.
Low (no pun intended) and behold, room was made
and I was finally able to study with Chris Tarry and learn
about his sound
When I learned of the opportunity to conduct this
interview, I jumped at the chance to tell the world of my
mentor's accomplishments, his many talents and
some of the secrets to his sound
. You will also
notice through the interview how Chris Tarry is very
active and that the reason for his success is that he
persevered and made things happen for himself. The
world of the profession musician is a tough one, but
Chris Tarry is riding the road well.
I caught up with Chris a few days after his band
Metalwood, some 5 years in existence, signed a deal
with a major record label.
Chris Trinidad: Chris,
congratulations to you and Metalwood on being signed
to Universal Jazz. Your relationship with a major label
will finally put Vancouver, BC, Canada on the map as a
city with a vital jazz scene, but more importantly, will
hopefully open doors and opportunities for Vancouver
based artists involved in jazz.
Thanks! Yes, we are very
excited about the new record deal for Metalwood. To
have a Canadian jazz group recognized on a world wide
scale is pretty unique and I hope it does open the doors
for other Canadian jazz artists. I feel we do have some
of the most talented jazz players on the planet here in
this great country!
Chris Trinidad: You and
trumpeter/keyboardist Brad Turner formed Metalwood
back in 1996. Up until that point, you were enjoying a
fairly successful solo career taking the Chris Tarry
Group across Canada a number of times. The
drummer from that group, Ian Froman is also a
member of Metalwood. The saxophonist Mike Murley is
often touted as a first call tenor man in the
Toronto area. What is it about these players that you
and Brad found
appealing for this band?
First things first, everybody
had to be big big hockey fans or else it just couldn't
have worked out! Seriously, I had been touring with
my group for quite some time and wanted a bit more of
an electric groove
outlet to offset my band's slight traditional jazz sound.
Brad had played
with Murley at a local jazz camp and I had been playing
with Ian since
Berklee. We each wanted to play with the other and
decided it would be a
very cool sound. When you bring musicians together
that caliber you know
it's gonna be good. To be honest thought, we had no
idea what it was
actually going to sound like. We took a bit of a gamble
flying them out to
do a record having never played together as a band
before! Whew, good thing
it worked! As it turned out we won the Juno (Canadian
version of the
Grammy) for best jazz album that year.
Chris Trinidad: How
would you say that everyone's playing in the group has
changed or evolved?
Because we had done 3
albums on our own to pretty good success before we
got this deal we were able to take a good look and
listen to the sound of the band and it's development
over the last 3 or 4 years before we did this new album.
With the first record, because we had never actually
played together before, we sounded really loose and it
had a very garage
band feel. This, I think, was the big appeal behind the
first album. As
the sound grew we became tighter and started to
investigate some of the
electronica/drum 'n bass sounds out there today. With
the new album we made
a conscious effort to capture some of the looseness of
the first record and
keep some of the intense tightness we had developed
over the years. I guess
it's a bit of a cross between all three records.
Chris Trinidad: The next
Metalwood release, due May 22nd, 2001 is called "the
Recline". How has the recent surge of groove-oriented
electric jazz by such artists as Medeski, Martin and
Wood, Charlie Hunter and John Scofield
influenced the writing on this disc?
I think all of them have had a
tremendous effect on the groove jazz scene. All of the
groups you mentioned have managed to cross over
a market previously reserved for large pop oriented
acts, bringing more
and more listeners to jazz in general. The resurgence
in all kinds of jazz
has a lot to do with the in roads these groups have
made into popular
As far as the writing for the new album I can only speak
for myself but I
definitely checked out all of them and tried to see where
some of my
compositional ideas would fit in with that sound. I do,
however, think that
we have been fortunate as a band to have a great
history up until now so we
were lucky to be able to draw on a sound that we have
developed over a long
period of time.
Speaking of John Scofield, he is guesting on a number
of tracks on the upcoming album. Tell us about
meeting him for the first time and getting to record with
It was amazing! He was
such a great guy and so into the music. What really
blew me away with all the famous guests that
appeared on the
record is that they were so into the moment. Everything
they had accomplished
in their career had no bearing on their personalities or
They were there to do the best job possible. They
reached that level
because it's always about the music right from Miles
Davis down to
Metalwood, period! That was the biggest thing I
learned, and that the best
guy's are always the nicest!
Chris Trinidad: Also
guesting on the disc is former Miles Davis and Sting
percussionist Mino Cinelu and DJ Logic, a frequent
guest with Medeski, Martin and Wood. How has their
playing added to the sound of the original quartet?
They were amazing. I was
blown away by both of them!
Mino and DJ are such cats that all we had to do was
play our way and watch
them magically slide into a sound that seemed to be
waiting for them to put
their stamp on it. We didn't really have to think about it.
questions, read the music, and really wanted to make it
about the music and
the overall band sound.
Chris Trinidad: You
have chosen the electric bass as your voice. What is it
about this wonderful instrument that you found so
I am not sure actually. I
have always been drawn to it. I think it might be my
interest in being a part of a greater whole or band. As
the bass player you can affect the direction of the band
to such a great degree but it's almost subliminal. Slide
in a great reharm here or rhythmic figure there and
watch it take shape. It's kinda like being the most
accepted back seat driver in history!
Chris Trinidad: Who
were some of the players you admired while learning
the electric bass?
Some of my earliest
influences go back to growing up in Calgary, Alberta.
There was a bass player there named Dale James (he
is actually an ActiveBass member for anyone who
wishes to drop him a line). I learned a
lot about intensity and time from him. Of course Jaco
was a big one. I think
Gary Willis is one of the best out there right now, he
was a very big
influence. As an electric bassist I have tried to learn
from and listen to
a lot of acoustic players. Dave Holland, Gary Peacock,
Charlie Haden, Paul
Chambers, and Ron Carter have all been huge
Attending the Berklee School of Music was probably an
incredible experience. Take us through what a day
down its halls is like.
It was a great experience. In
fact, as told before here at ActiveBass, I met one of my
closest friends and fellow ActiveBass creator Chris
Sung on the first day in line during registration!
The great thing about Berklee is that it's a little mini
scene onto itself. The best players get called first for
various shows, recitals, studio
sessions, and upper level ensembles. This type of
environment really pushes
you to become one of those top call players! Most of
the learning takes
place at night when you get a chance to play with
different musicians from
all over the world!
Chris Trinidad: Who
were some of the people you have studied with? And
what have these people taught you about the bass,
music and life?
I spent time at Berklee
studying with some amazing players. Some of the best
stuff I learned was from a great piano teacher named
Charlie Banacos. He taught Mike Stern, Jeff Berlin, and
a bunch of other famous guys.
Gary Willis and I have become pretty close friends and
he has taught me a
lot in regards to bass, music, and what to take on the
road! I recently had
a chance to spend some time with John Patitucci and
that was a great
experience as well. Some of the most important stuff I
learned, I learned
while just hanging out with a particular player who I
admired. Just talking
and picking their brain was always a huge learning
experience. I try to do
this with students, giving them the chance to just hang
out at a gig or
whenever possible go shoot a little pool or
Chris Trinidad: Who
are some of the musicians that you find interesting and
listen to these days?
I don't listen to many bass players
these days so that's an
easier question for me! I just bought the new Kurt
Rosenwinkel (a great NY based
guitarist) and I really dig it! Compositionally, I have
been checking out
Django Bates, always a lot of Wayne Shorter, some
great classic samba stuff,
Metallica, the Beatles, and Bill Frisell.
Chris Trinidad: You are
also considered to be a first call bassist on sessions
here in Vancouver, how did you get into this scene?
Well, I guess when I first
arrived here in Vancouver, I was getting pretty frustrated
not playing. I decided that if I was going to
remain sane that I should put together my own band
and start at least
playing some of my tunes. Once I got out there and
started playing with my
own thing, various people heard it and liked it. The
calls started coming in
after that. I tell a lot of students that, put together your
and it will give you a profile. If people like what they
hear, you will get
calls for many other things.
Chris Trinidad: What
kind of things have you been called upon to do?
When I get called to a
commercial session it usually
involves listening to a MIDI demo of something the
producer has worked up
but wants the feel of real bass. He or she plays it and
similar but with your own interpretation thrown in.
There are times when
you get a chart of exactly what they want you to play.
That's also a nice
challenge when you are forced to read it down in the
first one or two takes.
Chris Trinidad: What
kind of things are expected of getting called to such a
session? What kind of gear do you bring?
Usually I try and bring a
selection of basses. Almost all the time they want to go
direct. Because of time constraints there isn't always
the luxury of experimenting with different sounds and
micing up amps.
Generally, you need to have your sound together, be
able to read, have good
time, and be an easy person to get along with.
Chris Trinidad: You've
got a couple of 'bread and butter basses', a 5 string
Fodera and a custom built 5 string fretless Hozono that
you take to most gigs. You're also endorsing Kinal
basses. What is it that you look for in an electric
The thing what I look for
most is for it to give something back acoustically. The
way the strings interact with with the body wood
when it's not plugged in can tell you a lot. It's kind of
difference between new and old strings. If it's
acoustically dead then there
isn't a pickup in the world that can save it.
Chris Trinidad: How
about in a fretless?
The same thing except ten
times more emphasis on the acoustic qualities.
Chris Trinidad: What
kind of outboard gear, amplifiers and cabinets are you
I have been using Eden
amplifiers and speakers for a few years now and really
enjoy the flat response all of their equipment gives. I
have been using this really cool Line 6 delay pedal
lately that I really like. I also use an Alesis Nano Verb
for solos and a little ambiance.
Chris Trinidad: In our
close knit Vancouver creative music scene, you work
with some very interesting people. How has this work
as a sideman benefitted your own music?
It has influenced my music
in such profound ways. So much so that I am doing a
new solo album in March called "Of Battles Unknown
Mysteries" that is a representation of all the great music
I have had the
opportunity to play over the past few years. I haven't
done a solo album
for about five years. This one is going to have some
really out improv
stuff, some goove stuff, a little big band, some samba
stuff, and some solo
bass things as well. The music I'm writing is
influenced heavily by all the
great original compositions I have played over the past
Chris Trinidad: That's
an interesting title! How'd you come up with that?
Thanks, I really like the title.
The title in some ways
describes, for me, the musical process of doing an
album or composing a
tune. Each time I play one of my compositions with
musicians it gets interpreted a different way. The
feeling of wanting it to
sound a certain way, the inner "Battle", is something I
have tried to put
aside in all my compositions. Jazz is about creating
and letting everyone
have their say. The "mysteries" in that exploration are
where the music
lies. Every composition I write turns out differently than I
heard or conceived it. Aside from feel, form, and basic
tune structure I
try and give as much leway to all the musicians playing
on any given tune.
Chris Trinidad: Who
can we expect to see on the
album? Rumour also has it that you'll be recording with
musicians from both the Vancouver and Toronto
Yes, I am recording with a
bunch of people from
across this vast nation! Toronto based trumpet player
Kevin Turcotte, will
be on the album, as well as Toronto musicians Michael
Barry Romberg, and Metalwood sax man Mike Murley.
The Vancouver crew will
feature guitarist Daryl Jahnke, Metalwood trumpeter
Brad Turner, drummer
Dylan Van der Schyff, guitarist Ron Samworth, and the
list goes on and on!
Whew, organizational nightmare!
Chris Trinidad: How do
you approach composition?
Is it perhaps a case of putting the bass
away and sitting at a keyboard plunking ivories until
It can be. I find I write tunes
different ways. Tonight I am actually recording some of
the solo bass
stuff that will appear on the solo album. That really
takes me into
composition from the bass perspective. Sometimes, I
write a melody and put
the changes in afterward. Sometimes I get the chords
first. Sometimes, it's
just a concept and I have to sort it out other ways.
Chris Trinidad: Little do
people know, but you are also accomplished in other
areas. It appears that these accomplishments have
come about to fill a need, that necessity is often the
mother of invention. Namely, you are also a web and
graphic designer, an inspirational teacher, an astute
business person, and a mountain biker. Now, I haven't
riden a bike since I was a teenager but maybe you can
tell me about how you became accomplished in these
You are so right! Out of
complete necessity! As a jazz musician and
professional bass player it can be sometimes hard to
funds to accomplish all the music and ideas one might
envision. To do all
that I wanted to do I had to find a way to do it cheaper.
So, I taught
myself web design, photoshop, layout, pre press for CD
manufacturing, how to
lead a band, how to be a sideman, how to book a tour,
and so on. In the early
years I did it all myself in order to play my own music
and promote my
career. These days demands on my time as a
sideman, ActiveBass, and a
busy Metalwood touring schedule makes it really hard
to do it all. I am
farming a lot of it out because I can afford to but having
those skills has
been a large part of getting me where I am today. Of
course you still need
to practice and get yourself to a high level bass wise or
else all the promo
and business training in the world will not help!
Chris Trinidad: You're
also a faculty member at what is considered to be one
of the top jazz schools west of Ontario, Canada. Has
teaching influenced your outlook on the electric bass?
If so, how?
Teaching seems like
something I have always done and it has had a huge
influence on my playing. I have to get inside what I am
order to become a better teacher and this makes me
analyze myself and focus
on areas in my playing that need improvement.
Teaching at Cap and posting
lessons on ActiveBass has given me a little bit of press
and it's great to have
students come out and support you at your gigs and to
truly be into the
music you're trying to create. I finally decided to put it all
down in a book
that is, as I am always saying, "almost finished".
Actually I am in the
third or fourth draft at the moment so I am hoping it will
finish it self
Chris Trinidad: Some
people around here at ActiveBass don't realize it, but
you're actually one of the head honchos! ActiveBass is
such a great concept with its ability to facilitate the
exchange of knowledge about the electric bass. Where
do you hope to see ActiveBass in the next while?
Thanks, my cohort and
friend Chris Sung and I are very proud of the success of
ActiveBass. It is such a great community of players!
are going to keep adding new features and watching it
grow. The new ActiveMusician.com is up now and there are plans to expand
on all the "Active"
websites including the addition of ActiveDrums which is
already in the
Chris Trinidad: And
finally, the same question I asked your buddy, Ian
Froman. What are your top 10 desert island discs?
Wow, hmmm, okay, here
- Gotta have some Led Zeppelin
- Joni Mitchell "Shadows and Light"
- Miles Davis "Miles Smiles"
- John Coltrane "Crescent"
- Dave Holland "Triplicate"
- McCoy Tyner "Supertrios"
- Jaco Pastorius' first album
- Anything by the Beatles
- Herbie Hancock "Maiden Voyage" and anything with
Paul Jackson on it.
I would have to leave spot ten open for a last minute