Jay Anderson: Driving the Bus
JA: Definitely. Like the Paul Bley tune I mentioned beforeit'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 cityin the country, near Woodstockand 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 ampthe 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 and [baritone saxophonist] Gary Smulyan 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's band or Buddy Rich'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 together. He's an old friend.