Misha Mengelberg was born in Kiev in 1935 - the son of a Dutch composer/conductor/pianist and a German harpist - but is a lifelong resident of Amsterdam, where he teaches counterpoint at the Sweelinck Conservatory. He wrote his first piece for piano at age four and has been composing pretty much ever since, in the jazz and classical fields. Crucial early influences include jazz pianists Thelonious Monk and Herbie Nichols, the composer John Cage, whom he heard lecture at Darmstadt in 1958, and the absurd-art movement Fluxus, with which he was involved in the 1960s.
Mengelberg graduated from the Royal Conservatory in the Hague in 1964. The same year he made his first issued recording, Eric Dolphy’s “Last Date“. That album also features drummer Han Bennink, with whom Misha has had a longstanding duo. In 1966 Mengelberg’s quartet appeared at the Newport Jazz Festival in the USA. The following year Mengelberg, Bennink and Willem Breuker founded the Instant Composers Pool, a landmark in the development of an independent Dutch improvised music, which draws on jazz but does not restrict itself to any one style or aesthetic. (By the time of its 30th anniversary in 1997, ICP Records was the longest running musician-owned label in improvised music). In the same period he wrote several “game pieces“ for musicians, notably “Hello! Windyboys“ (1968), over a decade before such gaming became common.