Phil Hargreaves

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Before dedicating his career to improvised music, Phil Hargreaves (b. 1959) went through about every possible style and job. The saxophonist and flutist worked in the shadows for two decades before surfacing…
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Before dedicating his career to improvised music, Phil Hargreaves (b. 1959) went through about every possible style and job. The saxophonist and flutist worked in the shadows for two decades before surfacing as a recording artist. He played with the duo Bonehouse, is a member of Amere3, and leads the Frakture Big Band. Like Martin Archer, Hargreaves tries to establish a scene outside of the London circle of improvisers. That is mostly why he remains a much lesser-known figure in free improv.

Hargreaves was born and raised in Leeds where he first played electric guitar with a punk band. At age 20 he moved to Liverpool and bought a tenor saxophone. Self-taught on this instrument, alto sax, and flute, he quickly found work in the pop business, recording John Peel sessions with the group Personal Column. Pop left him unsatisfied and so did fusion and mainstream jazz, two more styles he professionally worked in. Experimentations with the Peshkar theater and his study of Indian music with Aziz Zeria opened the doors to free improvisation.

By the mid-'90s, Hargreaves was involved in the field of creative music as a musician, a club owner, a programmer, and a composer. He played with guitarist Phil Morton in the duo Bonehouse, recording one CD (Click, on Nerve Technologies) in 1998, and performing with Derek Bailey and Lol Coxhill. Out of the group of people revolving around the Frakture club, he put together the Frakture Big Band, a 12- to 15-piece ensemble -- Liverpool's answer to the London Improvisers Orchestra -- to play mostly his compositions. The formation collaborated with bassist/composer Simon H. Fell for the 1999 Frakture Festival. This encounter in turn spawned the trio Amere3 (Hargreaves, Fell, and Sheffield-based drummer Rob Dainton), whose first CD, Trees, came out in 2001 on the saxophonist's newly incepted label Whi Music. At the same time, he began to work in duets with Dainton and saxophonist Caroline Kraabel.