Misha Mengelberg

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Misha Mengelberg
Misha Mengelberg 1985.jpg
Mengelberg in 1985
Background information
Born (1935-06-05) 5 June 1935 (age 80)
Kiev, Ukraine
Genres Jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer
Instruments Piano

Misha Mengelberg (born 5 June 1935)[1] is a Dutch jazz pianist and composer. He won the Gaudeamus International Composers Award in 1961.

Early life[edit]

Mengelberg was born in Kiev, Ukraine,[1] the son of the Dutch conductor Karel Mengelberg, who was himself the nephew of the conductor Willem Mengelberg. His family moved back to the Netherlands in the late 1930s and the young Mengelberg began learning the piano at age five.[1] Mengelberg briefly studied architecture before entering the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, where he studied music from 1958 to 1964. While there he won the first prize at a jazz festival in Loosdrecht and became associated with Fluxus. His early influences included Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and John Cage, whom he heard lecture at Darmstadt.[2]

Later life and career[edit]

Mengelberg with Steve Lacy at the NDR Jazz-Workshop 1972. Photo by Heinrich Klaffs.

Mengelberg's first appearance on record was on Eric Dolphy's last album, Last Date (1964). Also on that record was the drummer Han Bennink, and the two of them, together with Piet Noordijk, formed a quartet which had a number of different bassists, and which played at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1966.[2] In 1967 he co-founded the Instant Composers Pool, an organisation which promoted avant garde Dutch jazz performances and recordings, with Bennink and Willem Breuker. He was co-founder of STEIM in Amsterdam in 1969.

Mengelberg has played with a large variety of musicians. He has often performed in a duo with fellow Dutchman Bennink, with other collaborators including Derek Bailey, Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Anthony Braxton, and (on the flip side of a live recording with Dolphy) his pet parrot. He was also one of the earliest exponents of the work of the once-neglected pianist Herbie Nichols.[2]

Mengelberg performing in 2004

He has also written music for others to perform (generally leaving some room for improvisation) and has overseen a number of music theatre productions, which usually include a large element of absurdist humour. A 2006 DVD release, Afijn (ICP/Data), is a primer on Mengelberg's life and work, containing an 80-minute documentary and additional concert footage.

One of his students was Oscar van Dillen.


As leader[edit]

  • Who's Bridge (1994) (Avant Records)
  • No Idea (1997) (DIW Records)
  • Two Days in Chicago (1998) (Hathut Records)
  • Four in One (2001) (Songlines Recordings)[3]
  • Senne Sing Song (2005) (Tzadik Records)

As sideman[edit]

With ICP Orchestra

  • Live in Soncino (AD LIB)

With Eric Dolphy


  1. ^ a b c Feather, Leonard & Gitler, Ira (2007) The Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz, p. 459. Oxford University Press.
  2. ^ a b c Layne, Joslyn. "Misha Mengelberg: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "Four in One – Misha Mengelberg Quartet | Releases". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 

External links[edit]