Born Ernesto Guiseppe Anastasio III on September 30, 1964, in Fort Worth, TX; son of an executive and a composer and children's magazine editor; married Susan Eliza Statser, 1994; children: two. Education: Attended University of Vermont, 1983-86; attended Goddard College, 1986-88. Addresses: Record company--Elektra Records, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, 17th Fl., New York, NY 10019, website: Website--Trey Anastasio Official Website:

Trey Anastasio is a composer and guitarist best known as the co-founder of the unique jam-rock group Phish. He has continued to prolifically compose and expand his musical vocabulary by exploring the limits of improvisation. Apart from his work with Phish, Anastasio has recorded several solo albums and has had success in the trio Oysterhead.

Anastasio was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, where his family moved in 1966. Anastasio's first songwriting was done in collaboration with his mother, who was an editor of Sesame Street Magazine and who wrote songs for children's records. His father was an executive for the firm responsible for administering the SAT and other tests.

Anastasio attended Princeton Day School, where he first met Tom Marshall, who would later become his songwriting partner. John Popper of Blues Traveler was another classmate. Anastasio attended Taft High School, and during his high school days he formed the band Space Antelope. Although he played drums as a youth, the guitar became his primary instrument. He continued composing throughout his school years.

While a student at the University of Vermont, he met the musicians who would form Phish: Mike Gordon, Jon Fishman, and Jeff Holdworth. Anastasio co-founded the group in 1983. He transferred to Goddard College, where he studied composition with Ernie Stires, who became an influential mentor for Anastasio throughout his career. The band was signed to Elektra and released its first recording, Junta, in 1988. The group's sound is based in rock, but the musicians improvise as jazz musicians might, sometimes placing them in the Grateful Dead-like jam bands category. And like the latter group, Phish has its own devotees who follow them around the country, record and trade their live performances, and memorize minutia about the group and its members.

Since the release of Rift in 1993, Phish has released at least one recording a year. The band also undertook a heavy schedule of touring. According to Rolling Stone, "Phish remained Anastasio's primary musical outlet for the duration of the '80s and the '90s, as his original work progressed from lengthy prog-influenced compositions, such as 'You Enjoy Myself' of the mid-'80s, to the more focused (though still complex) songs of Rift."

Anastasio formed a free jazz big band in 1996 for his project Surrender to the Air, including such musicians as Marshall Allen (Sun Ra), John Medeski (Medeski Martin & Wood), Marc Ribot, and Bob Gulotti. During this period from 1996-98 he moved away from using composition as a basis for creating music, shifting increasingly to improvisation, as illustrated in such Phish recordings as The Story of the Ghost and The Siket Disc.

The Phish Dry Goods label issued two unusual Anastasio-fronted Phish-related projects that further illustrate his prolific output. One Man's Trash consisted of 16 all-Anastasio tracks reportedly "written, produced, recorded and performed by Trey, often in the wee hours at the Fungus Factory or The Barn in Vermont," according to his official website. Trampled By Lambs and Pecked By the Dove was essentially a solo album--25 tracks written and recorded by Anastasio with Tom Marshall during a nine-day period in 1997. Of those, ten songs were recorded by Phish on later albums The Story of the Ghost and Farmhouse.

"Anastasio's ongoing collaboration with Tom Marshall also resulted in new material, far too much for Phish to assimilate into their already gigantic live repertoire," according to Rolling Stone. "Though Anastasio brought some of the songs to his newly formed side trio [Oysterhead], he still felt he was holding back." After the release of Farmhouse in 2000, the band went on hiatus.

During this break from Phish, Anastasio devoted time to Oysterhead, a trio including Anastasio, Les Claypool (Primus), and Stewart Copeland (ex-The Police), which straddled the jam and prog rock genres. They recorded one album in 2001, The Grand Pecking Order. "Over the span of 13 tracks, the trio succeeds admirably at finding the common ground between their seemingly disparate styles. Make no mistake, the characteristic trademarks of each member are still firmly in place," wrote Steve Bekkala in All Music Guide. "The musicians seem to be carefully listening and playing off of one another at all times--and enjoying themselves doing so." Anastasio told the Jambands website that there were never concrete plans to continue Oysterhead. "That's the beauty of Oysterhead. ... It was the most purely democratic experience musical experience I've ever had by far."

Anastasio's self-titled 2002 solo recording, which included some 30 musicians and vocalists such as Cyro Baptista, Dana Colley (ex-Morphine, Twinemen), and Lisa Fisher (The Rolling Stones), won a Jammy Award for Studio Album of the Year. Anastasio has described his composing process as an organic one. "I do it habitually almost. At times I have a hard time engaging in conversations and whatnot. I'd be much happier locked in the basement with a piano and my guitar," he told the Jambands website. "It makes me feel at peace in a certain way when I try to put notes in their proper place."

Phish announced it was ending its hiatus with a 2002 New Year's Eve show at New York City's Madison Square Garden, and three shows immediately followed at Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, Virginia. Several projects Anastasio participated in during the break were still coming to fruition. While touring in support of Trey Anastasio, several of his shows were recorded and culled for the two-disc solo album Plasma in 2003, which Elektra called "a series of musical excursions built upon rock-solid and even ferocious grooves." Most notably the album includes a 23-minute version of "Night Speaks to a Woman." In 2004 Anastasio was among the artists announced as backing Dave Matthews's solo project, Dave Matthews & Friends. "I've wanted to play with Trey for a long time," said Matthews in an article originating in the Boston Globe.

by Linda Dailey Paulson

Trey Anastasio's Career

Co-founded Phish, 1983; signed to Elektra and released Junta, 1988; formed free jazz group, 1996; group released Surrender to the Air, 1996; Phish took two-year hiatus, 2000-02; formed Oysterhead, 2000; released self-titled solo album, 2002; live solo album Plasma released, 2003; performed with Dave Matthews & Friends, 2004.

Trey Anastasio's Awards

Jammy Awards, Studio Album of the Year, Tour of the Year, Archival Album of the Year, 2002.

Famous Works

Further Reading


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