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Pianist Misha Mengelberg Dies at 81

Dutch avant-garde jazz leader co-founded Instant Composers Pool

Misha Mengelberg circa 1968 (photo from Dutch National Archive)
Misha Mengelberg circa 1968 (photo from Dutch National Archive)

Misha Mengelberg, an avant-garde pianist and composer who was one of the founders of the Dutch jazz and experimental music orchestra Instant Composers Pool, and who recorded with Fred Anderson, Derek Bailey, Eric Dolphy, Dave Douglas, Steve Lacy, Evan Parker, Roswell Rudd, Ken Vandermark and many others, died March 3 at age 81 due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease. The news was confirmed by Susanna von Canon, manager of the ICP Orchestra.

Born in 1935 in Kiev, Ukraine, Mengelberg spent his formative years in Holland after his family left the former U.S.S.R. to escape political unrest. Although he started playing the piano at a young age, Mengelberg first pursued a degree in architecture before changing to music theory and composition at the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. Given that his father, Karel, and great uncle Willem Mengelberg were both well-known orchestra conductors, the switch was unsurprising.

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