CHRIS TARRY IS AN ANOMALY. HE WAS born in rural Saskatchewan, Canada, but he’s based in bustling Brooklyn; he’s a bass guitarist with a Swallow-esque aptitude for straightahead jazz; and he’s a fiery soloist and technician on other people’s projects who takes a more subdued approach on his compositionally focused solo CDs. Tarry is also a published author of fiction, so it should come as no surprise that his latest project, Rest of the Story, is one of the most strikingly original packages ever to pair written word with written note. Story melds Tarry’s engaging, first-person fables with his nuanced, through-composed contemporary jazz, interpreted by Gotham heavies Henry Hey on keyboards, Pete McCann on guitar, Kelly Jefferson on saxophone, and Dan Weiss on drums. Kim Ridgewell’s attuned artwork completes the intriguing-looking tone tome.
What was your concept for this project?
My goal was to marry my two loves of writing music and literature. I write instrumental jazz, so that posed a bit of a challenge. We made the connection through the design of the product; it’s a book with four short stories and related artwork that flow into the music on a CD embedded into the book. Whether and how the music relates to the stories is up to the listener.
Which practice informs the other to a greater extent?
I’d have to say the writing informed the composing more. When I started taking writing seriously a number of years ago, inspired by my teachers Roy Kesey and Jim Shepard, I learned that the old axiom is true: good writing is 85% rewriting and editing. Musically, I’ve always had a knack for coming up with a melody and some changes. Plus, I have an amazing band that can make anything sound great. This time out I took more of a literary approach and kept tossing and revising melodies, bridges, even whole tunes. The music is much better for it.
What are the similarities in the two forms?
There has to be a strong narrative running throughout. In a short story, the narrative speaks to the reader, who relates to it in terms of his or her own life. I believe people hear music the same way; a tune can remind you of your first kiss or a family vacation. A good melody, well developed and structured, can tap into those feelings the same way a piece of literature can. This is also true of a good solo—it tells a story. That whole connection is at the heart of what the CD is about.
What character does your bass play?
Best supporting actor! I don’t make bassfeature records; for me the compositions come first, and the role of the bass is to serve song and soloist. I purposely don’t take a solo until the second-to-last track, and the last song has a chordal feature that just happened on the spot. But your connection is a good one. I write with my band members in mind, knowing what I have to give them to get back what I need, while allowing them to add their voices. So in a way it’s like writing for characters in a novel; at a certain point, they begin to write themselves.
HEAR HIM ON
Chris Tarry, Rest of the Story [2011, 19/8]; Daniel Kelly, Emerge [2009, BJU]; Adam Klipple, Blackjack [2008, 19/8]; Metalwood, Chronic [2003, Universal]
Basses Fodera Emperor 5-string, Alleva- Coppolo 5-string, ’68 Fender Precision Bass
Strings D’Addario EXL 165s
Rig Markbass Little Mark III and STD102HF cabinet
Effects Markbass Reverbero and Super Synth pedals