New York-based saxophonist and composer James Fei is an experimental musician whose work is characterized by a rigorously conceptual style. His work frequently employs improvisation, chance processes and electronics, and he often explores the extended techniques of the instruments he uses.
Born in Taipei, Taiwan, Fei studied computer architecture and music composition at Princeton University, where he worked with composers Paul Lansky and Steve Mackey. He received his masters' degree in composition from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, studying and performing with Alvin Lucier and Anthony Braxton. Fei learned plenty from Braxton's theoretical approach to composition and his integration of his own improvisations into the frameworks of his pieces. Fei has since appeared on a number of Braxton recordings. He has also recorded a number of albums featuring other former Wesleyan students, including discs by Jonathan Zorn, Kevin Norton and the Middletown Creative Orchestra.
While at Wesleyan, Fei recorded the bulk of his Solo Works, in which he played various saxophones and clarinets. Leo Records released the album in 1999. In the Fall of 2000, Fei began pursuing a doctorate in music composition at Columbia University. 2001 saw the release of the limited-edition 3" CD For Saxophone With Card Reed And Gated Amplification and Maestros' double-3" CD Precision Electro-Acoustics, which featured Fei along with David Novak. Both CDs showcased Fei's experiments with cheap electronics. The Organized Sound label has also issued a DVD of Fei's Alto Quartet playing live in Taipei.
Fei's works have also been performed by the Bang On A Can All-Stars, the Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble, and the Noord-Holands Philharmonisch Orkest. In 2002, two of Fei's many projects included an installation at the Diapason Gallery in New York, and a duo with bassist Kato Hideki.