Anderson is an American jazz double-bassist and studio musician. Since 1978, he
has worked with a wide range of jazz (and non-Jazz) artists, including Woody
Herman, the Brecker Brothers, Toots Thielemans, Kenny Wheeler, Joe Sample, Mike
Stern, Chaka Khan, Michel Legrand, Paul Bley, Tom Waits, Dr. John, Ernie Watts,
David Bowie, Allen Ginsberg and Celine Dion. He can be heard on over 400
recordings, seven of which have received a Grammy. Jay currently co-leads the
group BANN, featuring Israeli jazz guitarist Oz Noy (who has worked with
It always annoys me when people talk about the 1984 remix version of Cruising With Ruben & The Jets and talk solely of Chad Wackerman and Arthur Barrow’s overdubs: Jay also made a significant contribution to this alternate version of the album! I thought I would attempt to redress the balance by asking him a few questions.
aware of Frank’s music before you recorded for him?
Minimally. I had heard some of his music over the years. Didn’t own any recordings.
Chad Wackerman recommended you to Frank – how did you know Chad?
We lived in the same area. I had known Chad literally since he was a child. He was a child prodigy. His father[i] was an infamous jazz educator. His brothers[ii] were all musically gifted. I’m a bit older than Chad. When I first started going on the road, Chad sub-let my apartment.
simply accept Chad’s judgement or did you have to audition for him?
Chad asked me if I’d do it. I was into it. There was a slight problem. I was moving to NYC the next day. My bass and stuff was already in NYC. I borrowed a bass from a friend. We recorded one day at Frank’s home in LA. Chad told me his address and the time. No communication with Frank until I met him that day.
Did you work
in isolation at the UMRK, or alongside other musicians?
Just Frank, his engineer and me.
instructions or guidance did he give you?
Just verbal instructions like, “when you hear the guy vomit, take your bow and make it sound like rats running across the floor”!
On the old Mother’s stuff, I sat and transcribed the old electric bass parts. I’d use that as a starting point…one tune at a time. He wanted the sound of acoustic bass on those tunes.
first: work on Thing-Fish, or the Cruising With Ruben & The Jets, Lumpy Gravy, Man From Utopia overdubs?
As I mentioned, it was all done in one long 12 hour day, just the three of us. I didn’t read one note of music.
I was nervous because his writing was infamously difficult. It was all verbal, impressionistic, humourous instruction. He really let me do everything as I felt it. He was totally supportive, enthusiastic and cool. I added acoustic bass to some things (ie. what eventually was Thing-Fish[iii]). I put bass on maybe 20 tunes that day. It wasn’t until years later that I found out what recordings they were released on. I got the CDs about five years ago. I ordered them from an oddball used record store in upstate NY. That was the first time I had heard any of the music we recorded that day in, I think, 1982.
Do you know
on which tracks you added string bass to on the CD version of The Man From Utopia?
Do you know
if you recorded anything else for Frank that has yet to be released?
I don’t know if everything we did was released.
When did you
last speak to FZ?
It was an incredible one for me: Frank was down-to-earth, fun and respectful. I was 26 years old. I had a ball and only great memories of that day.
Photo of Jay liberated with permission from his website at www.jayandersonbass.com
[i] Charles ‘Chuck’ Wackerman is happily still teaching at the grand old age of 90.
[ii] Bassist Bob and fellow drummers John and Brooks.
[iii] Jay’s string bass can be heard on the tracks The Massive Improve’lence and Briefcase Boogie.
[iv] It is generally believed that Jay plays on The Jazz Discharge Party Hats and The Radio Is Broken.