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Interviews

Jay Anderson: Driving the Bus

Jay Anderson: Driving the Bus
By Published: April 18, 2011

I remember one time coming off the road with Joe Sample, getting on a plane, and going straight to a record date with Paul Bley--two completely opposite ends of the spectrum, but you just focus on the music, the joy, and the task at hand.

The term "sideman" really doesn't do justice to bassist Jay Anderson, as his beautifully melodic, lyrical lines and in-the-pocket-grooves lift and shape any music that he is a part of. And while the term "journeyman" holds some truth—Anderson has played with a huge number of people—one glance at his extensive discography reveals that most of the session leaders who have sought out Anderson's rich, warm tone have gone back to him time and time again. Anderson has been the first-call bassist on recordings and on tour for saxophonists Bob Belden
Bob Belden
Bob Belden
b.1956
arranger
and Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
b.1953
saxophone
, guitarist Vic Juris
Vic Juris
Vic Juris
b.1953
guitar
, and pianists Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider

band/orchestra
, Joe Sample
Joe Sample
Joe Sample
b.1939
piano
, Paul Bley
Paul Bley
Paul Bley
b.1932
piano
and Lynne Arriale
Lynne Arriale
Lynne Arriale
b.1957
piano
among others.

Anderson cut his teeth in the mid '70s in the band of reed player and band leader Woody Herman
Woody Herman
Woody Herman
1913 - 1987
band/orchestra
, gaining invaluable experience during a mammoth nine- month tour across the States. That old-school, apprentice-style experience in Herman's band was a rapid learning curve for Anderson, as he had to keep pace with young saxophonist Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
every night. After leaving Herman's band, Anderson went on to spend two years playing with another jazz legend, singer/pianist Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
1920 - 1994
vocalist
. So by the time Anderson made the move from California to New York in the early '80s, he was extremely well prepared for the musical challenges that lay ahead.

His first gig—and his ticket to the Big Apple—was with two notable figures from the bebop era, trumpeter Red Rodney
Red Rodney
Red Rodney
1927 - 1994
trumpet
and reed player Ira Sullivan
Ira Sullivan
Ira Sullivan
b.1931
reeds
, both of whom had played with alto legend Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
. Anderson, it seems, has always kept fine musical company. Whether playing in the big bands of pianist Toshiko Akiyoshi
Toshiko Akiyoshi
Toshiko Akiyoshi
b.1929
piano
, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
b.1930
trumpet
or drummer Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
Mel Lewis
1929 - 1990
drums
, in the trios of pianists Paul Bley
Paul Bley
Paul Bley
b.1932
piano
or Phil Markowitz, or playing in the quartets of tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
Michael Brecker
1949 - 2007
sax, tenor
or harmonica player Toots Thielemans
Toots Thielemans
Toots Thielemans
b.1922
harmonica
, Anderson's deep, soulful sound colors the music and drives it in a way that great bass players like Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen, Dave Holland
Dave Holland
Dave Holland
b.1946
bass
and Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
Charlie Haden
b.1937
bass, acoustic
are able to.

For Anderson, no musical setting is beneath him, and he brings the same serious intent whether playing a jingle or plying the groove for Celine Dion; Anderson's job, wherever he finds himself, is to sound as good as he can. The challenge of musical diversity stimulates Anderson, and he has also recorded with artists as diverse as singers Tom Waits and Chaka Khan. Currently, Anderson is touring with BANN, a co- op group consisting of guitarist Oz Noy
Oz Noy
Oz Noy

guitar
, saxophonist Seamus Blake
Seamus Blake
Seamus Blake
b.1970
sax, tenor
and long-standing musical colleague, drummer Adam Nussbaum
Adam Nussbaum
Adam Nussbaum
b.1955
drums
. BANN's As You Like (Jazz Eyes, 2011) was recorded at Anderson's New Mountain studio In New Paltz, and captures the excitement and chemistry of this outstanding quartet. With dates for BANN scheduled through 2011 and 2012, recording work with Maria Schneider coming up and plenty more live work in the pipeline, it is a wonder that Anderson finds the time to hold down a bass professorship at the Manhattan School of Music.

Anderson's open-minded approach to music, his wealth of experience and his humility, mark him out as something much more than just a sideman.

All About Jazz: Jay, you've been touring with drummer Adam Nussbaum, guitarist Oz Noy and saxophonist Seamus Blake in support of As You Like. this is a leaderless co-op group, is that right?

Jay Anderson: It's the brainchild of Adam Nussbaum, but it's a democratic endeavor. Adam is an old friend; we've played in at least 20 bands together over the years. I didn't know Oz although I knew of him; he's kind of the wild card in the group. Seamus is as good as it gets on saxophone. I hadn't played with him before either, but these disparate spirits came together, and it just worked. We all write and all brought something to the table. Oz does some very unique treatments of standards. Most of the people who know Oz know him as a fusion guitarist, but in reality he's a very gifted jazz player. His sound and approach are unique and draw from his rock/fusion background, but his lines and vocabulary are deeply rooted in the jazz continuum. I think it works because he bridges the gap between all of us. He's a master with effects, and contributes enormously to the mood and atmosphere of the music.

AAJ: It's a great sounding record—full of energy. How has it translated live on the stage?

JA: It's been fantastic. With this band we do everything from originals, to standards and covers. If I bring in a cover tune, I do very little arranging. I just transcribe the tunes as accurately as I can, with a vague idea of how we can bring it to life. Adam came up with a pop tune from our youth, "Guinevere" by David Crosby, and I transcribed it. I gave it to Oz and said: "Why don't you try this?" and it was off to the races. Every night it's different and very spontaneous.

I remember one night we were playing a [pianist] Paul Bley
Paul Bley
Paul Bley
b.1932
piano
tune called "Fig Foot." It's a theme that's just a springboard for some freedom, whether you play it slow, fast or funky. We were in the middle of it, and I whispered to Seamus: "Let's play (my tune) "Will Call," and we went into that and then back to the original tune. It's great when you can play in a band where there are so many options and so much trust. It's a pleasure. We've really only scratched the surface of the potential of this group.

AAJ: Hopefully this will be an ongoing project, because As you Like is such a great record.

JA: Thank you; we hope the same. Yeah, we'll do more.

BANN; From left: Adam Nussbaum, Seamus Blake, Jay Anderson, Oz Noy

AAJ: "Guinevere" is a powerful song, but the interpretation on this album takes the song somewhere really quite special. It raises the question why more pop tunes of the modern era haven't entered the jazz canon. Do you have a theory on that?

JA: That's interesting. Certainly it's been done. I remember Oscar Peterson recorded "Satisfaction" 35 years ago. Jazz players were used to certain elements, whether it's the melody, the format for improvisation or the harmonic content of the song, so it was kind of awkward for a while. I think people have done it with varying degrees of success.

AAJ: Do you think the fact that the standards from the Great American Songbook have prevailed for so long and that relatively few more modern pop tunes are in the jazz repertory points to a fundamental conservatism in mainstream jazz?

JA: I hope that jazz will never shake itself of the Great American Songbook because there's something universal about those tunes. One of the beautiful aspects of that music is that you could be almost anywhere in the world, and can make music immediately. Pop music is less harmonically driven today. The way most jazz musicians learn the music, you need something harmonically to grab onto.

AAJ: One standard on As You Like is the Jerome Kern classic "All the Things You Are," and there's a quite different sounding version of it on another terrific recording, Something Sentimental (Kind Of Blue Records, 2009) with saxophonist Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
, guitarist John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie
John Abercrombie
b.1944
guitar
and Adam Nussbaum. Is it difficult to take a song you've played perhaps hundreds of times and then play it in a very different way?

JA: Not at all. I have never ever grown tired of playing "All the Things You Are" or tunes like it because, fortunately, I'm usually playing it with great players. You think of one of the most famous recordings in jazz, Sonny Meets Hawk (RCA Victor, 1963), with Paul Bley's solo on "All the Things You Are," which has been seen as a pivotal moment in the development of the linear jazz language. I've played with Paul many times and played standards with him, and it's a pleasure. I've played "All the Things You Are" with Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
b.1956
piano
, and Vic Juris
Vic Juris
Vic Juris
b.1953
guitar
has a version on A Second Look (Mel Bay Records, 2005) where it's a slow, sensuous bossa nova—the melody is intact but harmonically it is completely de- and reconstructed. It's a pleasure to play.

AAJ: Something Sentimental sounds like it was an enjoyable session.

JA: When you're playing with Adam, John Abercrombie and Dave Liebman, it's kind of close your eyes and go. The [Another Nuttree] session was fairly democratic. They were all tunes we knew, and we recorded the project in a day. It was a very interesting record. Most listeners are familiar with Dave Liebman and John Abercrombie as composers, leaders and as improvisers. I think it's really interesting to hear them play on those tunes. It really puts their approach to improvisation in a context you can relate to: "Ah, so this how John Abercrombie would play 'All the Things you Are.'" The joy of discovery that John, Lieb and Adam brought to this material was absolutely fantastic. I mixed, mastered and edited the record, and could really sit there and listen to what they were playing; and although these tunes have been played thousands of times, they sounded as fresh as anything. That's the beauty of these standards.

AAJ: Coming back to As You Like, two of your tunes, "Will Call" and the beautiful "At Sundown" appear. Is that the first time you've dusted down these tunes since you recorded them on your two solo albums or have you played these tunes throughout the years?

JA: I did my own records in the early/mid '90s, and then since then I've been so busy as a sideman, my own projects haven't been a priority. Certainly there are people who are sidemen and find/make the time to lead their own projects. I have recorded "Will Call" on projects by Vic Juris and [trombonist] Mike Fahn. We were all bringing material to the table, and those tunes were my contribution. Oz with his bottleneck on "At Sundown" is just brilliant.

AAJ: His playing really transforms what was already a very beautiful tune; he takes it to somewhere special. It sounds like he's playing Hawaiian guitar.

JA: [Laughs.] It was just his regular guitar with a bottleneck. When we ran through the head, Oz said immediately: "Oh, we've got to do this tune." He had this little glimmer in his eye, and then he whipped out the bottleneck. I wrote the tune 20 years ago, and it was like, "Ah, that's what I've been waiting for 20 years to hear!" [Laughs.] He really got it.

AAJ: As you were saying before, a new combination of musicians can take an old tune, and if the tune's a good one they can make it sound freshly minted.

JA: Definitely. Like the Paul Bley tune I mentioned before—it's just a send-off for a journey of exploration. Just because a tune is counted off one way doesn't mean it's going to end up that way. One night Adam will start, or I'll start, or we'll start with a collective group improvisation and work our way into the tune, not really knowing how or when it's going to arrive or where it's going to go. It's a privilege to play with like-minded musicians where there's that kind of trust. It's always an adventure.

AAJ: You mentioned in passing your recording studio, the Mountain Rest Studio, where both As You Like and Something Sentimental were recorded. Is the recording, mixing and mastering a labor of love for you? Do you get a lot of satisfaction out of it?

JA: I do. When midi first came out, 25 years ago, it was something that I used as a composing tool since I have limited piano skills. Then when the software added the digital recording feature. I got the bug. Then my wife Marianne and I bought this house up in New Paltz, which is about an hour and a half north of the city—in the country, near Woodstock—and it's a very beautiful setting. The guy who owned the house before us was a taxidermist, so there were some ghosts floating around there; it was real funky. It was a nice building, but it really had to be gutted. Always in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted a space to make and record music. It took about six or seven years to get it going, and a couple of years to finish making it. If you've got great players, great music and a decent space, you can make records.

The first record I recorded there was with Vic Juris, a brilliant guitarist who I'd played a lot with, and I said, "Vic, I have a deal for you: you come in and make a record; it's on me, but you'll be my guinea pig." He was patient with my foibles, and we made a really nice record called Blue Horizon (Zoho Muisc, 2004) with [vibraphonist] Joe Locke, [percussionist] Jamey Haddad and Nussbaum. Since then, I do maybe four records a year here. It's not a huge aspect of my musical life, but I do enjoy it. I'm not Rudy Van Gelder and I'm not one of these guys who can do edits in a nanosecond. I'm not doing it every day, so my skill set is nothing like that, but what I lack in ability I make up for in preparation and trying not to make a fool of myself. When I do a session, I get set up and make sure everything is happening so that everyone can walk in and we're recording within minutes. It sounds good and it feels good. I'm up front about whatever limitations this particular situation has. When it comes to editing, mixing and mastering it's the same thing but I have the luxury of time. We've made some really nice records here.

AAJ: Let's go back in time a bit, if you don't mind. when you graduated with a B.A. in Performance from California State University, Long Beach you went almost straight into Woody Herman's orchestra, where you stayed for a year. What did you learn from that gig?



JA: [laughs] Gosh, what didn't I learn! I was really straight out of college, and, having never really left California, I got this call to play with Woody. I got on the plane with my acoustic bass, my electric bass, my amp—the whole thing, and my suitcase. I flew to Syracuse, New York, checked into the hotel, called the road manager to say I was here, and he told me to be on the bus at eight in the morning. I got on the bus the next morning, and there's Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
and [baritone saxophonist] Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
Gary Smulyan
b.1956
sax, baritone
and all these great musicians, and I was horrified. I got the gig, and I sat on that bus for a year. We never came back to California. I don't even think we went west of the Mississippi. I went from being a Californian kid to being a vagabond on a bus. I used to go and hear Woody's band when I was a kid. Where I was from in Southern California was a nice place, but it wasn't a rich musical environment. How I ever ended up playing jazz coming from there, I have no idea. I'd go hear Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
1911 - 1979
piano
's band or Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
Buddy Rich
1917 - 1987
drums
's band and Woody's band. It was a dream to play with Woody Herman. It was great playing every night after bouncing around on a bus for 10 hours, and whether you had diarrhea or an argument with your girlfriend, you had to go out and play. Once in a while, we'd play a dance gig and the pianist would call tunes, and I didn't know half of them. It was a fantastic experience.

AAJ: How impressive was the young Joe Lovano?

JA: Lovano was a force to contend with back then, too. Even when he was 25 he seemed like he was 50, not in appearance, but in his musical wisdom. It was great having him kick my ass around the bandstand. John Riley was playing drums, and I have had the good fortune to continue to play with him today. We both teach at the Manhattan School of Music and play with Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
Bob Mintzer
b.1953
saxophone
together. He's an old friend.

AAJ: From Woody Herman's Orchestra, you went on then to play with singer/pianist Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
1920 - 1994
vocalist
. How challenging was it to play for her? Is it a different challenge playing for a singer?

JA: Playing with Carmen was amazing. I was 24 and didn't realize how lucky I was. I was playing with a legend. She was a tough cookie. She was great to me [laughs] but I saw her create a shit storm with club owners, stewardesses and others around her. The music was incredible. She would play "The Masquerade is Over" every night, solo piano. The groove and depth of her storytelling ability was unsurpassed.

Would I want to be playing exclusively with a singer the rest of my life? Probably not, but I enjoy all aspects of music making, so I try to focus on whatever situation I'm in, embrace it and try to sound as good as I can. As a general rule, I like more open situations.

AAJ: When you arrived in New York in the early '80s, you played and recorded quite a lot with Ira Sullivan
Ira Sullivan
Ira Sullivan
b.1931
reeds
and Red Rodney
Red Rodney
Red Rodney
1927 - 1994
trumpet
, two musicians who lived the bebop period and played with Charlie Parker. Looking back on it, are you glad you didn't throw yourself in with a more, let's say, hip or cutting-edge scene, which is what a lot of young musicians look for when they move to New York?

JA: That's an interesting question. I think a lot of it is just fate on one's path in life and in one's musical life. Both Red and Ira played with Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
1920 - 1955
sax, alto
. Red and Ira's group wasn't a bebop band. Ira played tenor, alto, soprano, flute, alto flute, trumpet, flugelhorn, and he would bring all of them on the road. Not only would he play trumpet, but he'd sound like Fats Navarro
Fats Navarro
Fats Navarro
1923 - 1950
trumpet
or Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
or Lester Bowie
Lester Bowie
Lester Bowie
1941 - 1999
trumpet
. On flute, he'd sound like Hubert Laws
Hubert Laws
Hubert Laws
b.1939
flute
or [James] Moody, and on alto, he could sound like Bird, Cannonball [Adderley], Eric Dolphy or Ornette [Coleman]. When I say he sounded like those players, I don't mean he was derivative or an imitation; he could play the entire history of the music in a personal, real way. He was so open. He kicked our asses every night on the bandstand. In a way, he and Red were like oil and water, but they admired one another, and it was a lot of fun.

I really learned how to play on the road. I think my generation of musicians was kind of in between a few others; you had guys who were a little older than us, like John Scofield
John Scofield
John Scofield
b.1951
guitar
, and then guys who were a little younger, like Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
. We were kind of in between, listening to Weather Report
Weather Report
Weather Report

band/orchestra
, Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
's Return to Forever
Return to Forever
Return to Forever

band/orchestra
, Keith Jarrett and early electric music, and listening to Bird and 'Trane like everybody else, andOrnette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
and Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
, and Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
Cecil Taylor
b.1929
piano
. There was so much music out there. Red and Ira were my ticket to New York. I came to town with a gig, which was pretty rare in those days I guess. Aside from that gig, I was playing a lot of different music in NYC with my friends. I was doing the loft thing and playing completely free music for four hours and then going to other sessions where we played tunes. I don't really have any regrets.

When you look at my discography, it's pretty much all over the map. I remember one time coming off the road with Joe Sample
Joe Sample
Joe Sample
b.1939
piano
, getting on a plane, and going straight to a record date with Paul Bley—two completely opposite ends of the spectrum, but you just focus on the music, the joy, and the task at hand.

AAJ: You've also played and recorded with quite a number of people outside of the jazz spectrum—people like Chaka Khan, Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa
1940 - 1993
guitar, electric
, Tom Waits and Celine Dion. Is that diversity something you enjoy, and does it challenge you in a different way?

AAJ: Very much so. Even doing a jingle or whatever, just trying to make the music sound good, I never look at any situation as being beneath me. I grew up with James Jamerson
James Jamerson
James Jamerson
1938 - 1983
bass, electric
and Willie Weeks and Chuck Rainey, in addition to all the jazz masters, and it has certainly informed my playing. In pop music, it's more about what you don't play. There are so many seemingly simple options, but there is always that one that's right.

I enjoy all of it. Chaka Khan has always been an idol of mine. It doesn't get much funkier than that. That's not what we did together—it was more of a big band standards project, but if I've got the bass in my hands, I'm down.

AAJ: Your playing is very melodic, but it also sounds highly intuitive. Whether you're playing with Paul Bley, Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
Frank Kimbrough
b.1956
piano
, Mark Soskin
Mark Soskin
Mark Soskin
b.1953
piano
, Phil Markowitz, Vic Juris or whoever, it seems that they just let you get on with it without writing out you parts in much detail. Is that the case?



JA: I don't want to flatter myself, and I'm under no illusion that I'm the only person who could play the bass on any of these projects, but I know they call me not just because I'm holding a bass, but because of what I can bring to the music. With Vic, for example, we've had a long-standing relationship, and we rarely discuss anything. He brings the music in, we play it, and it's cool. The one person that really comes to mind is Maria Schneider; I've played with her since her first record. Not long after that record, she got a steady Monday night gig at Visiones in New York City, and I just wanted to be in the forest upstate, so I said I couldn't do the Mondays, which shows you what an idiot I was. Then eight or ten years ago, she was doing a record called Concert in the Garden (Artist Share, 2004), and she asked me if I would come back, and I said I'd love to. Her music is so beautiful, and she's such a talented musician and warm human being. She's also so appreciative of everybody that she makes you feel as if you're the one person that has to be playing this music. I still play with Maria today.

With her older material there's a lot of chord changes and it's pretty self- explanatory, but with a lot of her newer music there might be four pages with very little instruction, where you really have to come up with something; you can't just play a D note for 10 minutes. She writes the music for the personalities that are there, and fortunately she trusts me to do my thing. That is a gift. She just wrote a beautiful piece, a commission for opera singer Dawn Upshaw, with the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Multi-instrumentalist Scott Robinson and Frank Kimbrough were going to be featured, and she said, "Jay, I really need you there."

I said, "But there's a bassist with the orchestra."

I had been consulting with her on some techniques she could use on the bass and she said, "No, I really want you to be there and do your thing."

So now I'm doing that with her, and I'm highly flattered that she thinks I can bring something to the piece. It's a gift to feel that you're being called for who you are musically.

AAJ: A glance at your extensive discography reveals that That just about everybody you've recorded with asks you to come back time and time again. You've recorded numerous times with Paul Bley, Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider
Maria Schneider

band/orchestra
, Bob Mintzer, Rich Perry, Dave Stryker
Dave Stryker
Dave Stryker
b.1957
guitar
, and Steve Slagle
Steve Slagle
Steve Slagle
b.1951
sax, alto
, to name just a few. It must be very rewarding to know that these musicians see you as their first-choice bassist.



JA: You mention Mintzer; I've known Bob now for at least 15 years. I play in his small group and his big band. He's moved to L.A., so I don't see him as much, but what a joy to play with him every night! Rich Perry is another tenor player I work with, and although he and Bob are diametrically opposed, they both have incredibly strong voices on their instruments.

AAJ: You've played in quite a number of big band settings. You've talked about Maria Schneider and Bob Mintzer, but you've also played in the big bands of Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
Kenny Wheeler
b.1930
trumpet
, Mel Lewis and Toshiko Akiyoshi. Is playing in a big band a role that you particularly enjoy?

JA: I don't really perceive myself as a big band bassist. I tell my students, whether it's true or not, in a big band you almost have to convince yourself that you're the one driving the bus as the bassist. You've got the written music, and then you've got guys blowing on each tune so there is a lot of improvisation. You don't just want to slog through the stuff. You're dealing with pulling 15 people along; you're the harmonic link between the band and the piano, and the rhythmic link between the band and the drummer, so it's kind of an important job. I enjoy it. It's like poker night with the boys, hanging out with 15 maniacs at the gig, so there's a social aspect to it, which is nice.

AAJ: It must also be a very practical way to meet a large number of musicians and possibly elicit other gigs or recording dates, no?

JA: Yeah, I say to my students at the Manhattan School who happen to play in big bands , "Hey, you might not know this now, but these are some of the people that you're going to be spending the rest of your musical life with." The profundity of discovering the music at that age, and those friendships—the chances are, you're going to have those friendships for life. I tell my students to have an appreciation of this situation because they'll look back and realize how important it was in their development.

AAJ: Are the students at the Manhattan School well versed in the historical roots of jazz, or are they more in tune with contemporary jazz?

JA: Fortunately, the program at Manhattan School is, I think, as good as anywhere else, and it bridges the gap. As I said before, I came from a kind of apprentice-based education, whereas now it's generally more of an institutionalized thing, but I don't think one is necessarily better than the other. At Manhattan School, these guys are made to learn standards and have an appreciation for them. You have to learn the nuts and bolts of improvisation through some means, and these standards, or the Great American Songbook, are perfect vehicles for the work that needs to be done. A lot of these students will go on to play the jazz festivals, performing their original material which might be quite complicated, but when they're in the jam session at two o'clock in the morning back at the hotel, they're going to be playing "Stella by Starlight."

The best students have an appreciation for what these elements of their jazz education can bring to their playing, but also feel that their music needs to reflect their life experience and musical interests. That's what jazz has always been about.

There's a whole scene of players out there who are still mainstream, traditionally based, and who are flourishing; and it's valid, good music. And then there's a lot of [what] I call "science project" music, and I enjoy doing that too. I play in a band called Global Motion, and it's very challenging music. The reason I enjoy that band is because it's difficult music juxtaposed with beauty and logic. Sometimes I get a little tired of stuff that is so difficult that there's no margin for error. Imagine a tune which is eight pages long with 40 meter changes; what happens when you're playing out of doors at a jazz festival and you have a wire music stand and it's windy that day?

AAJ: Jay, you're a very fine ballad player. What advice to you give to your students at Manhattan School when they approach a ballad?

JA: Learn the melody—that's something I stress with everyone. As bass players, we're always providing bass function. When these guys are asked to play melodies or play a melodic solo, they don't even know the melody. It's good for your melodic playing in general. I guess I could take 100 bass players and ask them to play "Body and Soul" and there's a point, I guess it's in the fifth bar—most stumble in the exact same spot, and I know it's coming. It's important not to limit yourself to the opening statement of the tune, but to really get in there and learn the tune. Even if you don't want to be a bebop player, there's a lot to be gained from learning the heads to those tunes too: language, patterns, articulation ... important information that is very useful.

AAJ: How important is it to know the lyrics to really get inside a ballad?

JA: It's funny, I was talking to someone just last night about that. I don't think it's imperative, but any information you have to give you insight into the song is a good thing. There's a famous recording of Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
and Jimmy Rowles
Jimmy Rowles
Jimmy Rowles
1918 - 1996
piano
playing "Everything Happens to Me," and Billie stops and says, and I'm paraphrasing, "Jimmy, listen to the lyrics. You're playing way too happy for this tune." His accompaniment was not reflective of that story. Unfortunately, I'm not very lyrically oriented. Even when I played with Carmen, we could play a tune a hundred times and I still wouldn't remember the words. However, it will only inform your music on a deeper level if you do.

AAJ: What are your plans for the rest of this year?

JA: I have some work coming up with Maria [Schneider], which I'm looking forward to, and some touring in Europe with BANN for the As You Like record which just came out. The music business is in flux and I knock on wood; I'm lucky to play with a lot of great players and play music that I find satisfying. Jazz has never had a huge market share, but I believe there's an interest in it. You travel around the world and people love the music. Unfortunately, in America there's not much funding for the arts, and there seems to be a lack of appreciation, but I believe there are people out there who are still interested in hearing creative voices and what they have to say.

AAJ: What advice do you give to your students about the business side of the music?

JA: There are a lot of amazingly talented young people getting into the music, and sometimes we talk about the music business and what their role will be. I tell them, "You've got to follow your heart but balance this with a realistic view of your abilities, your drive and desire. And then you've got to go for it."

Selected Discography

BANN, As You Like (Jazz Eyes, 2011)
Vic Juris, Omega is the Alpha (Steeplechase Records, 2010)
Toots Thielemans, The Live Takes, Vol. 1 (In + Out Records, 2010)
Another Nuttree Quartet, Something Sentimental (Kind of Blue Records, 2009)
Mark Soskin, Man Behind the Curtain (Kind of Blue Records, 2009)
Phil Markowitz, Catalysis (Sunnyside Records, 2008)
Rich Perry Quartet, E-Motion (Steeplechase Records, 2007)
Maria Schneider, Sky Blue (ArtistShare, 2007)
Vic Juris, A Second Look (Mel Bay Records, 2005)
Maria Schneider, Concert in the Garden (Artist Share, 2004)
Chaka Khan, Classikhan (Music World, 2004)
Bob Mintzer, Gently (DMP Records, 2003)
Paul Bley, Notes On Ornette (Steeplechase Records, 2000)
Dave Stryker, Blue to the Bone II (SteepleChase Records, 2000)
Bob Mintzer Quartet, Quality Time (TVT, 1998)
Lee Konitz, Dearly Beloved (Steeplechase Records, 1997)
Bob Belden, When Doves Cry: The Music of Prince (Blue Note Records, 1994)
Mike Stern, Standards (Atlantic/WEA, 1992)
Michael Brecker, Now You See It... (GRP Records, 1990)
Tom Waits, Frank's Wild Years (Island Records, 1987)
Toshiko Akiyoshi, Wishing Peace (Ken, 1986)
Red Rodney and Ira Sullivan, Spirit Within (Elektra Musician, 1981)
Carmen McRae, Live at Bubba's (Who's Who in Jazz, 1981)
Woody Herman Band, Chick, Donald, Walter & Woodrow (Century Records, 1978)

Photo Credits
Page 1: Daniele Zappi
Pages 2-3: Courtesy of Jay Anderson
Jay Anderson
Jay Anderson
b.1955
bass, acoustic

Page 5: Scott Friedlander
Page 6: Stefe Jiroflee


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