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Alto/baritone saxophonist and composer Andy Laster was born in 1961, grew up on Long Island, and studied jazz at Seattle's Cornish Institute before moving to New York City in 1985. His first recording, Hippo Stomp, appeared on the Sound Aspects label in 1989. This album was followed by two more Sound Aspects releases, Twirler (1990) and the first eponymously named CD by Hydra (1994), one of Laster's key ongoing projects. During the 1990s Laster emerged as a unique and significant voice on the so-called "New York downtown music scene" that has also served as a launching pad for musicians like Dave Douglas, Tim Berne, and John Zorn. In 1995 the Songlines label released Polyogue, the second Hydra recording; next came another Songlines CD by Laster's Lessness band in 1997. Soft Shell followed three years later. While leading these two groups Laster also appeared in collaborative ensembles Orange Then Blue and New and Used, as well as Erik Friedlander's Topaz; the Julius Hemphill Sextet; the Pink Noise Saxophone Quartet; Bobby Previte's Weather Clear, Track Fast; and Ballin' the Jack. He has also performed with Mark Helias, Hank Roberts' Birds of Prey, and Lyle Lovett. In his "jazz-based" works, Laster has developed a unique compositional style that often draws from techniques employed in modern classical chamber music, with highly scored passages that serve as a backdrop for or intertwine with soloists. While often complex, the music is also spacious, rhythmically open and expressive, with considerable appeal to fans of well-executed contemporary jazz and creative improvisation. Laster made the leap into outright modern classical chamber music on the 2011 Tzadik label release Riptide, in which he served as composer only -- not appearing as a player -- for various chamber works ranging from solo piano to trio groupings, the latter of which were recorded at New York City's Roulette venue in 2010 and 2011. ~ Dave Lynch