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Avant-garde saxophonist Peter Epstein was born and raised in Portland, OR; at age ten he began studying the clarinet but soon switched to alto sax, later apprenticing under the likes of singer Nancy King and bassist Glen Moore. While attending the California Institute of the Arts, Epstein studied improvisation and composition with bassist Charlie Haden, flautist James Newton, and clarinetist John Carter, concurrently exploring West African music and dance, North and South Indian classical music and Balkan folk music; upon graduating in 1992, he relocated to New York City, forming a quartet with accordionist Jamie Saft, bassist Chris Dahlgren and drummer Jim Black. Epstein's debut as a leader, Staring at the Sun, appeared on the M.A. label in early 1999; both Solus and The Invisible arrived later that same year.