Ishmael Ali is a first generation Filipino-Arab-American cellist, guitarist, improviser, composer, and electronic artist currently residing in Chicago. His work centers on exploring sound through improvisation, experimentation, collaboration, as well as a wide array of idiomatic approaches in an ever-changing, always-growing list of projects with diverse focuses and influences.Though varying drastically from group to group, a common thread in his work is the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate elements to create something new: both foreign and familiar.
Frequent collaborators include Bill Harris, Jeff Kimmel, Eli Namay, Je’raf, Fred Jackson, Avreeayl Ra, Adam Shead, Wills McKenna, Jakob Heinemann, Timothée Quost, Aaron Quinn, and Deric Dickens. In addition, Ishmael has played or recorded with Jim Baker, Ed Wilkerson, Carol Genetti, Peter Maunu, Josh Berman, Andrew Scott Young, Johanna Brock, Abhilasha Chebolu, David Leon, Raf Vertessen, and many others.
In addition to performing, Mr. Ali is a co-founder and audio engineer at the recording space Marmalade in Chicago and was the founder and director of the now inoperative music and art space, Orotund Music. He continues to work as an organizer and promoter with varying degrees of regularity.