By Dylan Deprey
Since officially moving to New Orleans, all Jay Anderson has had to do is wake up and play his saxophone. He doesn’t worry about the numbers from the show the night before, and he isn’t scrambling to fill spots for last minute cancellations at one of his shows.
Over the past several years, Anderson has curated genre-bending bands like Stomata and Foreign Goods. He has created his own record label for local artists, Voodoo Honey Records and has even crafted events like Nightmare on Center Street and the Strange Fruit Music Festival. The grind that pushed Anderson to Milwaukee’s music forefront was also slowly deteriorating his love for music and the people he played with.
After making several trips to the Jazz Capitol of the world, he decided he needed a change and officially made the move. He said the Big Easy has offered an encouraging atmosphere. It was a city that revolves less around the competition and was more embedded in the simple love for the craft.
“It’s been very humbling,” he said. “People are so dedicated to their craft and so hard working. I can’t even hold a torch with half the people in my own band, let alone the whole city.”
He said he learned a lot from the circle of everyday people and musicians that he has befriended in New Orleans. From learning, new techniques on the sax, to simply being a better person, Anderson said “New Orleans Jay” has matured as a professional and has altered his normally aggressive tendencies.
“You have to make sure your personal and spiritual development is matching along with your instrumental playing,” Anderson said. “It’s not just about being a good instrumentalist, it’s about being a good person, and being someone that people want to be around.”
Anderson said he felt buried while in Milwaukee. From performing in multiple bands, running a record label, and curating shows and festivals, the business was a weight and the party was a crutch. The days leading up to his departure, the aggressive “Business Jay” had ruined relationships and burned bridges.
He said the move to New Orleans brought back a “Jay” that simply played for the love of it, a “Jay” before all the of industry crap.
“It’s been really fun because I’m falling in love with music again and people again,” he said. “It’s not just about the numbers and the money, or the ‘who was late?’ and ‘who played what?’ ‘how were the numbers for the tour?’ Now, it’s like we’re musicians and we love playing music, and I haven’t felt this good about relationships with fellow musicians for a while.”
While building relationships down South, the sax player also had his Stomata bandmates Dave Schoepke (drums) and John Paul Simons (bass) back home. He hopped a Greyhound and came back to Milwaukee to do some quick catching and up and ultimately crank out an album. He was finally testing the new long distance relationship he had found himself in.
“I don’t plan on moving back to Milwaukee any time soon, but the guys live up here with their families and stuff, so it was really our first experiment on how this was going to work,” Anderson said. “
The original plan for the album was to have written pieces and original lyrics. Unfortunately, the plan didn’t come to fruition as Mardi Gras put Anderson into a slight procrastination mode. He had nearly half of the project done, and by the time the trio got into the studio most of the album was done on the fly.
“This was an absolute business trip,” Anderson said. “There was barely any leisure time. I got into town, recorded the album in a day, and as soon as it was finished, I did some press work and was out of there.”
As the title suggests, “Crawfish and Highlife” hosts the trio and other accomplished Milwaukee musicians diving into the New Orleans sound and fusing it with a Midwest twist. The album also features: Paul Cebar, singer-songwriter, Genesis Renji, rapper, Old Man Malcolm, producer, Mark Davis, jazz pianist, along with musicians Peter Roller and Connie Grauer.
“I’m so fortunate to have this full life, and maybe it’s not a full life compared to others, but now I’ve been able to really appreciate everything I do have and be grateful for the inspirations I have and the people I get to work with.”
“Crawfish and Highlife” was released on May 1. For more information visit https://www.voodoohoneyrecords.org/