Dutch (Ukrainian-born) pianist Misha Mengelberg (1935) graduated from the conservatory in 1964 after participating in the John Cage-inspired artistic movement Fluxus. He debuted with Driekusman Total Loss (december 1964), credited to a Kwartet featuring alto saxophonist Piet Noordijk, drummer Han Bennink and bassist Gary Peacock, that contained three lengthy pieces in a free style (Driekusman Total Loss, Nature Boy, If I Had You) and The Misja Mengelberg Quartet (march 1966), containing other lengthy pieces (Auntie Watch Your Step, Driekus Man Total Loss, Journey). For a few years he was mainly involved in the improvised recordings of the "Instant Composers Pool" series with other improvisors, notably Instant Composers Pool 002 (may 1968), containing Amagabowl for a trio with altoist John Tchicai and Bennink, Instant Composers Pool 005 (march 1970), in a quartet with Tchicai, Bennink and guitarist Derek Bailey, Groupcomposing (may 1970), with trombonist Paul Rutherford, tenorist Peter Broetzmann, soprano saxophonist Evan Parker, altoist Peter Bennink, guitarist Derek Bailey and Bennink that inaugurated the ICP Orchestra (Instant Composer's Pool Orchestra), and Instant Composers Pool 010 (march 1971) in a duo with Bennink. Other duets with Bennink (on all sorts of percussion noises) yielded Coincidents (june 1973), Einepartietischtennis (may 1974), Midwoud 77 (march 1977), Instant Composers Pool 023 (july 1979). The duo also recorded Yi Yole (september 1978) with altoist Dudu Pukuwana, and 3 Points and a Mountain (february 1979) with Peter Broetzmann on saxophones and clarinets. These albums displayed Mengelberg's debt towards Thelonious Monk and other jazz greats, but mainly his (and Bennink's) bizarre language of humorous noises and detours, better codified in the Suite Banana on his solo album Pech Onderweg (february 1978). A quartet with trombonist Paul Rutherford, altoist Mario Schiano and Bennink recorded the four-movement improvisation Tristezze di Sanluigi on A European Proposal (april 1978).
Mengelberg also played on and composed for the ICP Tentet's ICP Tentet (april 1977), that included four saxophonists (Peter Broetzmann, John Tchicai, Peter Bennink, Gilius van Bergeyck), pianist Misha Mengerberg, celloist Tristan Honsinger, bassist Maarten van Regteren Altena, drummer Han Bennink, and Tetterettet (september 1977). Mengelberg and Bennink were, above all, the pillars of the ICP Orchestra, a rotating ensemble of improvisors that recorded Live Soncino (september 1979), with trumpeter Enrico Rava, saxophonist Gianluigi Trovesi, tuba player Larry Fishkind and other Italian musicians, Japan Japon (may 1982), with trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, saxophonist Peter Broetzmann, viola player Maurice Horsthuis, Fishkind, trombonist Walter Wierbos, clarinetist Michael Moore, etc, Caravan (same session), Extention Red, White & Blue (may 1984), with soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy, cellist Ernst Reijseger, Wierbos, Fishkind, Moore, Horsthuis, etc, Two Programs (may 1984), with Lacy, trombonist George Lewis and others, devoted to Mengelberg's heroes, Bospaadje Konijnehol I (november 1986), containing Mengelberg's suite De Purperen Sofa, with George Lewis, Maurice Horsthuis on viola and Ernst Reijseger on cello, Bospaadje Konijnehol II (november 1990), containing Mengelberg's eight K-Stukken and Mengelberg's four-part suite Tegenstroom. Mengelberg's music for larger ensembles was permeated by the same absurdist circus-like atmosphere of his duets with Bennink but it augmented it with ambitions worthy of chamber music.
A quintet with trombonist Gerge Lewis and soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy performed Herbie Nichols compositions on Change of Season (july 1984). A similar quintet with Lewis, Lacy, Bennink and cellist Ernst Reijseger recorded Dutch Masters (march 1987), containing Lacy's Dutch Masters and Utah as well as two Monk compositions.
Mengelberg finally returned to the solo format for the 13 Impromptus (june 1988), another kaleidoscope of madcap proto-folk nonsense, that was followed by Mix (may 1994) and Solo (december 1999). These solo albums delivered his cacophonous vision uncensored and unedited.
The other main outlet for Mengelberg's "compositions", the ICP Orchestra, became a tighter and more focused affair on Jubilee Varia (november 1997), containing two more Mengelberg suites, Jubilee Varia Suite and Jealousy Suite, performed by Wierbos, Moore, Reijseger, trumpeter Thomas Heberer, clarinetist Ab Baars, cellist Tristan Honsinger, bassist Ernst Glerum and Bennink. Oh My Dog (june, 2001) was a lesser version of it, containing the 15-minute Happy Dreams and emphasizing Honsinger's role (who composed half of the titles). The live Aan & Uit (december 2003) added Mengelberg's six-movement Picnic to the orchestra's repertory.
More than anyone else, Mengelberg found the missing link between free jazz and Dadaism and John Cage's "alea".
Mengelberg's collaborations ranged from Who's Bridge (february 1994), a trio with Brad Jones (bass) and Joey Baron (drums) that sounded like a summa of his jazz influences, to MIHA, that collected more duets with Bennink (from 1992 and 1997), from the nine untitled pieces of The Roots of the Problem (may 1996), particularly the ninth with trumpeter Thomas Heberer and tuba player Michel Godard, to the mediocre No Idea (june 1996), in a trio with bassist Greg Cohen and drummer Joey Baron, from The Field Recordings 5 (march 1997), with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and percussionist Gert-Jan Prin, to Playing (march 1998), duets with saxophonist Yuri Honing, from Two Days in Chicago (october 1998), with assorted Chicago musicians (such as tenorist Fred Anderson, tenorist Ken Vandermark, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, percussionist Hamid Drake), to Lively (july 2000), with saxophonist Yuri Honing and cellist Ernst Rreijseger, containing the 29-minute Vrijdag. Best of the "conventional" recordings was perhaps Four in One (september 2000), a quartet with trumpter Dave Douglas, Brad Jones and Bennink.
Mengelberg has also composed classical music, notably the Saxophone Concerto (1980).