Few jazz-oriented musicians can claim to have studied with legendary French composition teacher Nadia Boulanger; indeed, British violinist Phillip Wachsmann may be the only one -- living, anyway. Of course, Wachsmann is not precisely a jazz musician. He came to free improvisation through the music of such 20th century classical composers as Ives, Webern, Partch, and Berio, unlike the majority of his collaborators, most of whom came to free playing via jazz. In 1969 (about the same time he studied with Boulanger, whose emphasis on the primacy of live performance indirectly influenced Wachsmann to become an improviser), he became a member of the Yggdrasil Quartet, a band devoted to performing work by such contemporary classical composers as John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, and Morton Feldman. With that band, he experimented with electronics, using contact mics on his violin and running his sound through various tone-altering devices of his own devising. Another project from around that time was Chamberpot. During the '70s, he became involved with the cream of British improvisers -- Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley, Evan Parker, Paul Lytton, and others. He's played with Oxley's Celebration Orchestra, Bailey's Company, Keith Tippett's Ark, and the London Jazz Composers Orchestra. Other collaborators include Georg Graewe, Fred Van Hove, Rudiger Carl, and Marcio Mattos. He's also worked as a solo performer. Wachsmann has recorded for Incus, FMP, Unit, hatART, and Intakt labels, as well as his own Bead imprint.
by Chris Kelsey