He has been one of Europe's leading bass player since the early 70-ties. Andersen started out as a member of the Jan Garbarek Quartet (67-73). The group also included Terje Rypdal and Jon Christensen. During the same period he also worked with Norwegian singer Karin Krog and played in the rhythm section for visiting American musicians such as; Phil Woods, Dexter Gordon, Hampton Hawes, Johnny Griffin, Sonny Rollins, and Chick Corea. He also worked with Don Cherry and George Russell in these years.
In 1972-74, he visited New York several times and worked with the Stan Getz Quartet, Sam Rivers Trio, Sheila Jordan, Steve Kuhn and Paul Bley.
In 1974 Arild Andersen formed his own quartet. The band toured Scandinavia and Europe and recorded 3 albums for ECM with this band. He also had a band together with singer Radka Toneff in the late 70-ties and early 80-ties.
In 1980 Arild Andersen put together a band that included Kenny Wheeler,Paul Motian,and Steve Dobrogosz (Lifelines, ECM). In 1981 he had a band with Alphonse Mouzon, Bill Frisell and John Taylor (A Molde Concert, ECM). This band also toured Europe in 1983, this time with John Abercrombie on guitar.
In 1982 he formed The Arild Andersen Quintet with Jon Christensen (dr) Jon Balke (p`), Tore Brunborg (sax), Nils Petter Molvaer (tp). The band changed name later to Masqualero. This band was in the forefront of European jazz for 10 years, the last years as quartet without piano. Masqualero toured the USA, Canada, East and West Europe and made four albums, one for the Norwegian label Odin and three for ECM. Three of the albums won the Norwegian Grammy award.