Trey Anastasio PhotoSince co-founding the seminal improv rock outfit Phish in 1983, guitarist, composer, and songwriter Trey Anastasio has explored a wide variety of musical pathways ranging from atonal fugues and elaborate charts with Phish to adventurous free jazz on his first solo project, Surrender to the Air (1996), to collaborations with the likes of Tom Marshall, Les Claypool, Philip Glass, Stewart Copeland, and others. After Phish went on long-term hiatus in late 2000, Anastasio focused on a myriad of projects, including Oysterhead and his eight-piece solo band.

Born Ernest Guiseppe Anastasio III in 1964, Anastasio attended Princeton Day School in Princeton, NJ, where he met future songwriting partner Tom Marshall. As a teenager, he helped his mother, Diane, write songs for children's records. At the University of Vermont, he teamed up with bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman, and guitarist Jeff Holdworth to form Phish. After being suspended from the University of Vermont for a semester for a prank gone awry, Anastasio transferred to the highly experimental Goddard College outside of Burlington, where he studied intensely with composer Ernie Stires while writing and rehearsing Phish's complicated early material. Soon after, Holdsworth was replaced by keyboardist Page McConnell.

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 (1993). While Phish placed more and more emphasis on group improvisation, Anastasio's charts gradually fell by the wayside. In 1996, he organized and produced Surrender to the Air, a big-band, free jazz excursion with Sun Ra saxman Marshall Allen, organist John Medeski, avant-garde guitarist Marc Ribot, experimental drummer Bob Gulotti, and many others. Though Anastasio was nominally the leader of the project, he played as an equal member of a large group of downtown heavyweights.

The transformation of Anastasio's work from composition-based to improvisation-based was completed in 1997 and 1998 with The Story of the Ghost and The Siket Disc, two Phish releases chiseled out of hours of collective jamming overseen by producer John Siket. Anastasio's ongoing collaboration with Tom Marshall also resulted in a bevy of new material, far too much for Phish to assimilate into their already gigantic live repertoire. Though Anastasio brought some of the songs to his newly formed side trio, he still felt he was holding back, and, following their massively successful New Year's celebration in Big Cypress, FL, and the release of the entirely Anastasio written and produced Farmhouse (2000) (as well as increasingly unfocused live performances), Phish decided to take a hiatus of an undetermined length, beginning in October 2000.

Anastasio went right to work, scoring an arrangement of the Phish song "Guyute" (one of his last multi-sectioned compositions) for the Vermont Youth Orchestra with mentor Ernie Stires. Following its performance, he hit the road with a horn-bolstered version of his side trio and almost a dozen new songs, many of which returned to the complicated work of years past. Soon after, he wrote and recorded an album with Oysterhead, a power trio of Anastasio along with Primus bassist Les Claypool and former Police drummer Stewart Copeland, beginning a new chapter in his musical history. His time spent with Oysterhead was experimental, but not permanent. By early 2002, Anastasio prepped for his proper solo release for Elektra. His groovy cool self-titled album was issued that April and Anastasio returned to the road string of U.S. tour dates.

The live effort, Plasma appeared in April 2003, showcasing more than two hours of performances from Anastasio's 2002 summer/fall trek of North America. Seven brand new tracks and a few covers were sprinkled into the double-disc set as well. ~ Jesse Jarnow, All Music Guide