Acoustic bassist and composer James Ilgenfritz approaches the double bass as an archeologist would unearth a fossilized relic. Carefully examining rarified aspects of the instrument's sonic palette, James strives to give new meaning to the classically overlooked gems of the instruments physical and hypothetical properties. James works primarily as an improviser, delving into unforeseen territory. Collaboration is an essential aspect of James approach, both with close associates, and with less familiar colleagues from the international creative music scene.
In 2002, James relocated from his native Michigan to Brooklyn, New York. In the time since then, he has been mixing his own resources with those of many other great musicians in the New York area. James' improvisational skills have brought him into a variety of compelling collaborations, including work with Gary Lucas, Andrew D'Angelo, Chris Speed, Lukas Ligeti, Steve Swell, David Krakauer, and Tim Berne. James maintains a variety of ensembles, including the Anagram Ensemble (Original extended compositions for improvisers), Trio Caveat (minimalist expressionism in Jazz), the Sound Infusion Creative Music Ensemble (performing and conducting improvisational duo with Sarah Weaver), and Hypercolor, an avant-rock outfit featuring Eyal Maoz and Lukas Ligeti. While in Michigan, James spent 2 years with the avant-rock band Larval, whose latest record, Obedience features James bass playing, and recieved four stars in Downbeat Magazine.
James has performed at the 2005 JVC Jazz festival with Gary Lucas, the 2006 Vancouver International Jazz Festival with Marilyn Crispell, and 1999 Edgefest with Tim Berne and Michael Formanek, as well as making various appearances at Tonic, the Knitting Factory, the Downtown Music Gallery, the Empty Bottle, the Kerrytown Concert House, Barbes, the Bowery Poetry Club, and many other locations in the NYC area and elsewhere. He has toured with many ensembles, including Trichotomy, the Anagram Ensemble, Trio Caveat, the avant-rock band Larval, and the James Ilgenfritz / Sarah Weaver Duo.
James has also recently become a conductor of Soundpainting, the multidisciplinary language for conducting improvisation created by Walter Thompson. James conducts and performs as a part of a touring performance/ workshop duo with Trombonist and fellow conductor Sarah Weaver.
With an emphasis on capturing and sharing the creative spirit always playing a central role, James has always pursued a direct path to finding the tools to create art. His education has been varied, including summer studies at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in the visual arts, and a Bachelors degree in Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation from the University of Michigan, where he studied with Ed Sarath, Steve Rush, Diana Gannett, and Suart Sankey. In addition, he sought guidance over the years from bassists Norm Damschroder, John Lindberg, Mark Helias, and Mark Dresser. In Fall 2005 James entered the Performance Master's program at the University of California San Diego, working with bassist Mark Dresser, cellist Charles Curtis, and Max/MSP creator Miller Puckette. James is also closely involved with the International Society for Improvised Music, an organization founded by U of M Jazz Department Chair Ed Sarath, dedicated to the promotion of creativity and Improvisation across disciplines.