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Joe Maneri: Serial Autobiography

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Preface


Strength is Happiness. Strength is itself victory.

In weakness and cowardice there is no happiness.

When you wage a struggle, you might win or you might lose.

But regardless of the short-term outcome, the very fact of your

continuing to struggle is proof of your victory as a human being.

~ Daisaku Ikeda


At some point in life everyone will encounter events requiring struggle. That struggle could be physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, or some combination thereof.

But despite the nature of the struggle, and despite the outcome (as suggested above), the inevitable product of struggle is a personal transformation. Whether one calls this "character" or "soul" or "being", most people claim to have grown as a result of the struggle.

Joe Maneri is one who can claim not only perseverance but also triumph over many of the struggles in his life (as you will read below).

While Mr. Maneri is best known for his critically acclaimed recordings for ECM, Leo, and hatHUT, he is also a faculty member at the New England Conservatory of Music where he teaches music theory, composition, improvisation, and jazz studies, conducting numerous lectures and workshops. Furthermore, even though the majority of his releases have occurred since 1995, Mr. Maneri has pursued a unique musical vision over his nearly 75 years of life. Profoundly skilled on a variety of wind instruments, his repertoire spans jazz, ethnic music, and his own microtonal compositions. As both composer and performer of microtonal music, Mr. Maneri is co-author of Preliminary Studies in the Virtual Pitch Continuum, is co-inventor of a microtonal keyboard that has 588 notes with 72 notes per octave, and is founder and president of the Boston Microtonal Society. Many jazz scholars have suggested that had Mr. Maneri become recognized in the '50's or '60's (when he first began recording), he could very well have achieved the stature of Ornette Coleman or Albert Ayler (but who's to say that he still can't?).

The reason for presenting his story at this time, is not to help promote a new record or tour, but to celebrate his life. On Feb. 9, 2002, Joe Maneri will achieve his 75th birthday. On this date, Tonic will host the Joe Maneri 75th Birthday Gala Celebration (@ 9:30pm). TONIC is located at 107 Norfolk Street (between Delancey & Rivington). Further information can be obtained by calling 212-358-750 or by pointing your web browser to (Official disclaimer: neither All About Jazz nor this writer are associated with Tonic)

Correspondence with Joe Maneri was conducted via e-mail and fax during winter 2000-2001.



THE SERIAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOSEPH GABRIEL ESTHER MANERI (Part One)

1927 - 1937 "Early Memories"

I was born on February 9, 1927 in New York City. My parents, Toto and Nina, came to America from Sicily, Italy. I was an only child. We spoke Italian at home and I began to speak English in my first year of school.

We lived at 45 Melrose Street in Brooklyn, top floor, right. It was called a "cold water flat" type of apartment with railroad rooms.

Several times a month my parents would have a musical party at our "apartment". We had a typical quartet of clarinet, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. My dad played clarinet. I would sit as close as possible to the musicians. I became excited when I heard them tune-up; it took a long time. The first party that I remember was when I was three years old. These parties went on throughout most of my life there.

My father played the clarinet very well. My mother was a self-taught singer of opera and folk songs. She, as well as I, learned the operas and folk songs from the Italian radio station.

My mother and father were good storytellers. My father was exceptional as an improviser, creating comedy situations at social gatherings. He didn't tell jokes. He kept a "deadpan" look in his delivery. At times, my mother and father would spontaneously go into a duo presentation.

Whether we were shopping, at a funeral, a wedding, or involved in just our daily living, we were always "on stage".

Ethnic music exposure did not occur in my early years in Brooklyn. But I knew the kids on the block were a mixture of nationalities.

1938 - 1940 "The Teachers"

In 1938, at age eleven, a neighbor schoolteacher convinced my father to allow me to take music lessons.

I began by having a clarinet teacher (totaling three all together). All three became one great package.

Giuseppi Di Luca at Jefferson St. was first. He was initially a drummer, a singer of romantic Italian songs (accompanying himself on guitar), a music copyist, and played clarinet. He composed a number of mazurkas, polkas, and waltzes (dance songs) for solo clarinet. As a first teacher, he was an awesome romantic. He first took me to the living room where there was an incredible mahogany desk. Using a black inkwell and fancy pen, he wrote "East Side West Side" and "Let Me Call You Sweetheart". Then we went into the kitchen where he boiled a pot of water to make spaghetti. We sat down with a music stand in front of us and put the freshly copied songs on it. He showed me where to put my fingers for the first song. He then played the first few notes and had me imitate him. Though I hadn't learned to read music yet, I tried to follow the fingering to get the melody of the song. (My ability to make a song actually started when I was about six years old. My Mother would give me half (upper part) of the clarinet and I would blow "sounds". This took place while my Father was out, for he said I must never play music). Sometimes I would get to the lesson a little early to have fun chasing his pretty daughter Roslyn around the table before he got home.

One day, Pietro Bruno came to visit during my lesson. He lashed out at Mr. Di Luca saying I was playing an antique clarinet (Albert system) which was my father's and that I wasn't learning to read music. Now began my second clarinet teacher. My first tools were a proper clarinet Bohem system, a solfegio book by Pasquale Buono and a group of methodically written clarinet books by Lefebre. He would count out loud hitting the music stand on the downbeat shaking it, which made it harder for me to follow. Since I was learning disabled, I could not fully understand half notes, etc. So I started to guess the rhythm and play it over and over till it sounded what I thought to be correct. I also made good progress with him. He lived on Ellery St. and the lessons were in his kitchen where his wife always cooked an amazing delicious smelling dinner. After a while he purchased a black material hard cover "etude" book by Labanchi. Studying this fantastic book from cover to cover, gave me an amazing technique in all sorts of articulation playing original composed melodies. Though I failed all my subjects in grade school, I graduated on to high school. At my graduation, with Mrs. Autori accompanying me, I performed an arrangement for clarinet on "La Aida" and "Theme and Variation on Rigoletto" for clarinet. I believe I played well. I must add Pietro Bruno was also a charismatic romantic. I adored his brand new looking Eb and Bb clarinets in elegant cases. Here's one story I wish to tell. His cat "BeauBeau" had a huge swelling on her neck. The doctor told him to put her to sleep. No way, he said. At home, he continually bathed the swelling with hot compresses. The following week, while at a lesson, he handed me a pretty box made for a ring. I opened the box and inside was a shining gold pin about one & a half inches long. With a big smile, he said the swelling went down from doing the hot compresses and out came the gold pin from the cat's neck.

Joseph Nalbone was my third and last teacher on the clarinet. He was a gentle man but with authority. He told me I must study with him and he was right. My embouchure and tone control was bad. Week after week I was sent home to do more of the same which was long tones in every possible way. Also staccato in all ways (being sure not to move my chin or mouth). I was to look in a mirror to be sure my face, while playing, must look like I was doing nothing. I couldn't understand what I was doing though. I was about fourteen years old and became discouraged and cried hard and long. As usual, my mother would scream at me and told me to immediately quit music. It seemed like all at once, I noticed my sound was "pure" and beautiful. I heard overtones, many nuances. During my time with Mr. Nalbone, we never read any music. Mr. Nalbone's clarinet was a fine instrument, though it did not shine like Mr. Bruno's. He played it only once for me. He told me he had played with the Trenton N.J. Symphony. He quit the symphony and learned to tune accordions and the art of furniture making. He made all his own furniture.

These three fantastic men were created just for me. The fact that I was learning disabled, but didn't know it, I would surely have failed if I were a student of the first clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic.

1941 "Life in Williamsburg"

At fourteen years old, we moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a populated Jewish ghetto. I instantly believed that I was an Italian Jew born in America, enjoying all of the Jewish culture, gestures, soup, and dances.

Another venue for my musical future was celebrating a Patron Saint. Several towns within Sicily or Naples were blessed with a miraculous individual who was responsible for the divine healings of body, spirit, or unique occasions. The Italian immigrants who came to America created Italian ghettos and felt comfortable with celebrating the saint who had been in their past towns. There were food stands with gourmet foods, decorative and festive rows of lights, in exact replications which continued for several blocks. Steel cables were placed across from building to building. Girls dressed as angels were hooked on, flowing back and forth in mid air. An orchestra of woodwinds, brass, and percussion, with an excellent conductor performed on a large, elevated stage. The highest level of opera singers performed famous arias, and also sang in duos and trios, doing scenes from operas. Traditional folk songs were sung in a variety of dialects. Two instrumental soloists were chosen to perform, and they dazzled the audiences. My father knew a few musicians who played and they allowed me to sit on stage for the duration of the night. This was a profound learning experience for me.

In my first and only semester of high school, I was put in a marching band (a symphony orchestra) and played bassoon.

At that time, 1941 in Brooklyn, there were many dance bands and dance band contests. My band was different. My personality, always seeking to be unique, formed an all reed and rhythm section. The band was a grand success. WNYC city radio station gave us the opportunity to play on the air for 4 consecutive weeks. We received boxes full of fan mail. It might have been the only reed band at the time. I know later on there was a professional reed band. It might have been Glen Grey.

1942 - 1943 "Early Gigs"

My first gig at 15 was in a neighborhood bar. Someone who was in my band called me. I think it was Carl Stabile, a tenor saxophonist. He was a tall skinny guy who wore peg pants. I don't remember whether I played alto and clarinet or just clarinet. My father dropped me off. As I walked in the club, I had to walk by a long bar to the back where there was a bandstand with chairs and tables and a small dance floor. It all seemed like a dream. I felt my head was empty. I couldn't think at all. I went through the motions of getting on the bandstand to get my instruments ready to play.

But all of a sudden, I remember playing the first song. I could almost see us play right now—Carl Stabile who was to my right and Melvin "Red" Olson was playing piano. He wore a white shirt and the collar was starched and unbuttoned. He played kind of a boogie woogie. Then a plump lady in her 40's " a Red Hot Mamma", started to sing. " One of these days, you're gonna miss me honey." It was great.

I recall Carl had to leave the band at some point and I was to take over. It all went well. We then had an audition at an agent's office. His name was Jack Miller. He had a moustache, and when I played, he would smile. I knew he liked my playing. Shortly after, we did a tour. The band was called "the Quartones". Bob Felini played electric guitar, Pat Monty played bass, Melvin "Red" Olson played piano, and I played alto sax and clarinet. Our first gig was in Schenectady. I have beautiful pictures with the band posing as if playing. I wonder how many songs I knew? We never read music. In one picture taken with the band, you see me playing sax and clarinet at the same time or holding my clarinet way up in the air.

"Red" Olson and I were the exciting players. I didn't know any chords to songs. I just played something with great enthusiasm. I must have played well for I received much applause and was liked by all. Again, I had no idea what I was playing; I just recall excitement. At this point I "somehow" hooked up with other Quartets and played on tour and at home. I say "somehow" since I don't know or understand till this day the circumstances of how I met the musicians I played with from 17 yrs. old to almost 19 yrs. old.

1944 - 1945 "Musical Growth"

At 17 yrs. of age, the various groups I played for brought more specific demands from the bandleaders. Al Bandini took me to Nick's Dixieland Jazz club to hear Pee Wee Russell to help influence me. I was too immature to understand Pee Wee's great gift. I believed he was important, though his tone and manner of playing tuned me off (today I sympathize with those who find my playing odd, interesting, great, lacking swing, and know that I was fortunate enough to get old enough to be heard. One reviewer said in 1990, when my first album "get ready to receive yourself" was released, "he growls a little but that doesn't make it jazz. I'm glad I could go back to my Albert Ayler").

Bela Bizoni led a group I worked with. He played gypsy violin. Actually, I did one gig with his group. It was a summer month at a Hotel in N.J. It overlooked the ocean. His musicians were as unique as he was. There was Herman Arminski, concert pianist with a handsome profound appearance, Paul Rosen, a brilliant all around pianist and composer of sophisticated modern pop music, a virtuoso trumpet player from Russia, a masterful double bassist and Bela, the leader, a violinist on the highest level. Bela would swoon the people while playing great "schmaltz" at each table during dinner. On one occasion he didn't feel physically well enough to play and asked me to play the tables on tenor sax. I said, "but Bela, the saxophone looks like a plumbing supply part". He insisted I play and it worked. This odd array of musicians for a hotel band was nevertheless a success. I was only 17 at the time, the youngest of the musicians whose ages ranged from 30 to 50 years old. We played classical, romantic, sophisticated music from around the world. Bela brought out of me my gifts, such as, playing and performing classical, romantic, Straussian waltzes, tangos etc.

As I write about Bela, I'm realizing I didn't play any wrong notes. Amongst these marvelous musicians who carried an authority, and who strongly affirmed my ability in music, I felt I must be good. The fact that they were European meant I could easily identify with them, as I too felt like a foreigner. I somehow believe my wrong notes and difficulty in learning stemmed from not selling myself as American born. My parents raised me as a European.

Ralph Segreti booked me in a Chinese Restaurant across from the N.Y. Paramount theatre. Here I learned to play shows. We played from 12 noon to 3 am. We played four shows a day, and I was paid an outrageously small salary. In that period of time in history, 1944-1945, there were many music jobs with a shortage of musicians.

About the beginning of 1945, there was a decline in gigs. I started going to the Musicians Union at the Roseland Ballroom. A pianist I knew from N.Y. Sam Di Mario, called me to do what was to be my last gig as an ignorant musician. It was at the Ringside Bar across the street from Madison Square Garden. We were a Benny Goodman trio. I don't remember how good I was as Benny Goodman. This place was well known. I guess I must have been good but I wasn't aware that this was a highclass gig. I started to play a wrong note and here a wrong note there. This may have been the first gig I was fired from. Little did I know that I was about to experience what brought me to be a profound musician. More about that after I share 1946, one of my firstmost God's miracle happenings which at the present time is one of many reasons for me to write my life in this life.

I'd like to mention one incident that followed me for the rest of my life. During intermission, I was standing outside the restaurant in front on Broadway looking across at the long lines of people waiting to get into the N.Y. Paramount, to see and hear movie and Benny Goodman and his band. I was thrilled to be playing across the street. There were many people walking by me. Suddenly a man about 40 years old and I think he had a small beard, stops in front of me. I had a tuxedo on at the time. He then said "you are a musician?" I nodded. He continued "you are going to be very famous. I know because you cut yourself a lot while shaving". It may mean nothing but it's also comforted me many times.

1946 "Dance Music"

When I was about nineteen years old I became a "wedding" musician. As New York City was a smaller Europe, there were opportunities to learn dance music from all over Europe - Irish, Scottish, Polish, French, German, Jewish, and more.

With the help of Guss Pardalis, a reed player from a Greek background, I was instructed in the authentic Greek interpretation with well known songs. It took me a few years to play in a relaxed and creative way within the Greek style.

In Greek and Turkish clubs on Eight Avenue, I played for the best belly dancers. I learned the songs and was able to improvise along with the dancers' motions, according to their melodic, motific phraseology.

So at 15 years old, I played with small groups in hotels, nightspots, weddings, etc. At 20 years old I played Greek music for belly dancers, weddings, and large dances.

Though I was enjoying playing and improvising in Greek, Arabic, Turkish, and Armenian music, my heart always ached to be a jazz performer.

The years between 17 to 19 were profoundly important, as that's when I met Ted Harris in 1946. I began to play one to two wrong notes per song. These notes were usually one step higher or one step lower. I began to believe I had no brains in my head and that I was going downhill in my playing. Despite this though, I still felt I was a gifted musician.

1946 - 1947 "Making New Friends in the Land of Roses"

Traveling quartets and trios started to disappear. It was rare for me to go to (Mon. Wed. Fri.) the huge musicians union at the Roseland Ballroom at 52nd St. & 7th Ave. to try and get a job.

Whee, here goes my greatest story ever told. This is where it all began - my Land of Roses Ballroom in a fog filled smoke screen from cigarettes. There were well dressed important looking musicians, probably free lance studio musicians in one corner and a larger conglomerate group of musicians bunched in groups of three, four and more, though from a distance they all appeared as one huge group. These were called "club date musicians". The busiest and more lucrative successful groups were in the "Jewish" business, i.e., weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. The rest were mixed groups of specialty ethnic weddings, light jazz pop, show playing musicians, sleazy strip joints, a span of neighborhood "dance halls", small clubs, and other. As I walked into Local 802 musician's union, this is what I saw and felt. "My God, there must be great clarinet players here". That was a frightening blow to my ego. It was 1945 - 46 and I was touching 19 yrs. old. As I pressed my way through the largest crowd, I instantly felt wounded. While walking and squeezing through the crowd, I noticed the age groups of men (very few of women), were from 24 to 50 years old.

I finally got to the other side of this crowd and noticed a large section of the remainder of the Ballroom to be empty of people. As I looked, I spotted three musicians huddled together standing by a large round pole. They looked kind of strange. There was Ted Harris, about six feet tall, talking excitedly but quietly with his arm moving gently and his pinky pointing forward. Angelo Musolino, about five feet tall who stood straight with his feet solidly on the ground. And Aldo Lanfranco, perhaps five feet ten, quite skinny with a caved in chest yet handsome and with a slight smile. I walked over and joined them standing by the pole. Their manner of standing and talking and also the way they looked was different from the other musicians. They looked to me, at that time, as having a different reason for being there. I see now that I saw them as very unusual people. I'm sure I felt very comfortable standing with them. Up to this point I was nervous and apprehensive. It felt good being near them, like they were the family I wished I had. It wasn't boldness on my part to walk up to them and stand there. The aura they exuded was of great love. Peace came over me, though at this time I was battered with extreme sadness. As yet, not known to me, Ted, Muzzy, and Aldo were extraordinary musicians and studied with Josef Schmid, students of Alban Berg who was a student of Arnold Schoenberg. Josef Schmid, who was soon to become my teacher, was also a conductor under Zemelinsky. I'm sure the 802 union musicians would agree that Ted, Muzz, and Aldo's presence was a one time happening since before that time and till this minute.

The first question Ted asked me was which instrument I played. I quickly answered sax and clarinet. The second question's wording was very unusual and perhaps in those days there were no words to suggest "avant-garde". Since I am learning disabled, it is unlikely that I understood the question, whatever it might have been. Though I wasn't aware of my dysfunction then, I know that I lived my life almost never understanding any thing that went on around me. I was in a constant daze. When I had to answer a question, I remember telling my mind (though I knew I wasn't able to understand) to guess and then give an answer. In this case, the thought that came to me was "they must mean my wrong notes". Intuitively I deduced that since they were very different, it must mean my wrong notes is what they wanted. All my life my mom and teachers told me I almost never get anything correct. With assurance I talked about my wrong notes at which they then laughed and giggled and then asked me to go to the "Chesterfield club" the following night and audition. I quickly went home to practice more wrong notes.

We started our first song the following evening. I played many wrong notes. Of course the boss of the club came out in front of us and yelled "get rid of the saxophone". After calming down the boss, Ted said I play great but "do less wrong notes".

Ted asked me, during intermission, what my plans were as a musician. I never thought about it but knew the right answer was to be a studio musician despite the fact I was well aware of not having the right qualifications.

Ted told me then that Muzz, Aldo, himself and sometimes others hung out every Monday night sharing music, books, politics and more. I went every Monday night and "Wow"- I learned. I learned I didn't like Debussy because it reminded me of psycho movies. I learned about Lester Young, Mozart, Beethoven, Teddy Wilson, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Varese (not Charlie Parker yet), Aldous Huxley, Thomas Mann, Dostoyevsky and the history of the world.

In the beginning, I found I was unable to read any book. The vocabulary was beyond me. The meaning of sentences, not understanding a plot or incidents. So I read each book as many as five to ten times.

This was during McCarthyism. The "Daily Worker", which was a left wing newspaper, could only be purchased at news stands. We would ask for the N.Y. Times news and we received the Times with the Daily Worker stuck inside. There were critiques on all sorts of politics, a list of left wing writers such as Maxim Gorky and Howard Fast.

On Monday nights, as well, we improvised with standards. Although I didn't know chord changes, I was able to play by ear. This was short lived. Teddy pointed out that the jazz of the day was well established with great players already accomplished and successful. Bubbling with excitement, he wanted us to find our voice through new paths. So he pushed us toward 12 "free" notes so as to avoid tonality. It was exciting to play melodic jazz-like phrases without tonality.

Also on Monday nights, there were long discussions of theories of music i.e., harmony, melodic implications, and rhythm. I found Mozart and classical music hard to understand. I loved Schoenberg because it had all the wrong notes at once.

As for jazz, they taught me about the current jazz players of the day. Though we didn't do a study on painters or the sciences or math, I felt that by 1950 I had the equivalent of a doctorate.

For a short time we had a small following at a jazz club around 1947 in Greenwich Village, N.Y. There would be small lines of jazz musicians coming to hear us. Jazz players complimented me though I wasn't sure why since I was playing by smell and intuitive transcendence. I did not understand styles. I was thrilled at playing all the wrong notes and be told that I was good. Between the jazz inflections and the brand new notes, sounds and rhythm, I enjoyed creating music. Many years later, I read a statement by Beethoven, in which he said "I thank God for giving me the gift to reach for the unattainable". The spirit and soul of jazz, which came from great suffering as slaves, created a unique music, and from the soul of our African American brothers, the suffering spirits of pain ripped open the heart of early "black spirituals" to music never before heard. I believe, from early childhood, I had the same kind of suffering, as a slave to my mother's erratic, almost insane, behavior. Upon my first hearing of jazz music, I identified with my Black fellows. The calling sounds, wailing, screaming "don't take my baby - don't take my baby" still haunts me today.

1946 - 1958 "The Influence of Josef Schmid"

My music studies under Josef Schmid were from 1946 to 1958. I had two lessons a week. We studied piano playing for about three years. My piano lessons quickly brought me to six hours of practice daily.

When I began harmony in '46 I didn't know what bass Clef was nor did I know where middle C was on the piano. For the first two years, it took me many hours to write music notes on paper. With great struggle and many hours of trial, playing from chord to chord, I was not discouraged. At the sound of a single chord, I was filled with joy. I didn't know that I was a pre-beginner. I never heard of Mozart, the violin, bassoon, or the symphony orchestra. I had never known that songs were composed by people. I did all of my studies in a damp and dirty cellar. I had little or no idea how ignorant I was. Whatever I learned, it was from moment to moment, and each moment was the most exciting time of my life.

Josef Schmid was seeking to study theory and composition, either with Max Reger or Arnold Schoenberg. He chose Schoenberg. He went to his house unannounced, rang the doorbell, and met Alban Berg and Anton Webern. They were packing Schoenberg's bags for he had moved hurriedly to accept a teaching position. When he finally met Schoenberg, the new position left him little time, so he studied with Alban Berg.

Schmid was an accomplished conductor, organist, and pianist and could play the violin as well. After a short time, he became assistant conductor to Anton Von Zemelinsky.

While conducting in a political rally against Hitler, two newsmen rushed him and his wife to a train going to Paris, France, right after the concert. His life was threatened several times. Then from Paris, with Schoenberg's help (Schoenberg referred to Schmid as his godfather teacher), he went to California where he stayed with Schoenberg and later settled in New York City.

We worked, using Schoenberg's THEORY OF HARMONY in German (which Schmid read to us) as Schmid translated. Throughout the entire book, as a weekly lesson, we were encouraged to compose 12 to 20 phrases in harmony weekly. Schoenberg's astonishing wisdom in harmony caused work amounts beyond the ordinary, from four to six part harmony.

In counterpoint we filled over 7 manuscript books at 100 pages each. After completing all species in triple amounts from the norm 15th and 16th century. We composed full masses in three and four part motets. We examined Palestrina, Di Laso, and Victorio as well. Dutch masters were also included.

Then in motified techniques, independently, we went through the harmony book again through all the modulation through to 5 part counterpoint.

Then we composed a couple of cantatas, 10 piano fugues, one organ fugue and a double fugue for string quartet.

Then we began Gavotte's composition. We composed through all the forms of classical music, for string quartets, trios, quintets, piano music through all the classical, then Romantic, then through the beginning of the 20th century.

Schmid was like a papa to all of his students. He cooked for us, took us all out to lunch, walked us to the train when we went home, and along with us, delighted in watching all of the girls go by.

Once he stopped into a butcher shop and purchased a huge steak for me to take home and eat. Since my work was so slow, he'd say "Yah, Choe, a composer must eat well" or once in a harmony lesson he asked me not to go higher than A in the soprano. Of course, the next week I had one instance of a high A. He walked away and suggested that we have coffee and relax.

Should listeners of avant-garde and free improvisers listen to Schoenberg and Berg? Certainly they should. Today's performers and those of the past always were seeking. The nature of being a creative improviser is one who wants to know it all. Charlie Parker visited Stravinsky by knocking on the door, unsure of himself. Igor answered the door and Charlie said, "I'm sorry to bother you, I must have the wrong address."

My major concern for these listeners is the lack of awareness that they have for jazz history.

The miraculous spirit of our Black ethnic music must be identifiable through the soul of its beginnings.

The horrid pain of slavery has ached beyond the body to the soul.

The song phrase "Go tell it on the mountain" and "nobody knows" has reached the whole world with its most unique calling.

One of my students told me that his great grandfather told him of a certain plantation owner who complained that the songs they sang were too slow and sad. His group of slaves sang the same sad song faster, which made for a happier music. As an American, born Italian, my parents came here to America to be free. I, in profound sadness, ache for my brothers and sisters who paid the price of slavery to be free. This memory cannot be forgotten.

Therefore, today's and yesterday's trail blazers were of the same spirit. Though in the past reviewers were not as open to the freshly creative music of its time, specific negatives were pointed out. Today's stylistic new music is lumped together with the titles and labels "avant-garde" and "free improvisation". Since the music of today's creativity is not talked about as in the past, which was with critical comments, these labels (avant-garde and free improvisation) cut out on critical observation, leaving confusion and unclear labels.



Postscript and Acknowledgements

A few words on how this article came to be: In summer 2000, AAJ modern jazz editor Glenn Astarita and Universal Music's Tina Pelikan suggested that Joe Maneri be interviewed. This writer accepted the assignment.

What followed proved to be as full of surprises as the music of Joe Maneri himself. When prompted with a handful of simple questions about his life and career (covering the period from his birth in 1927 until age 25), the response received was an enthusiastically candid and astonishingly detailed series of anecdotes. It was eventually decided that this should be published, sans questions, in Mr. Maneri's own "voice" as an autobiographical narrative. The only additions are the insertion of headers and a slight resequencing of the original text to preserve chronological integrity.

In conclusion, the year 2001 was challenging if not outright difficult for many people (this writer included). This article should have been published a year ago. Joe Maneri's life is a story of perseverence and determination. It should serve as inspiration, even if one is unfamiliar with his music.

This article would not exist without the help of the following individuals:

  • Tina Pelikan (infinite patience and grace)
  • Dr. Judy Little (intermediary correspondent and good will)
  • Gloria Maneri (intermediary correspondent and good will)
  • Kendra Sue Olson (fax transcription, editing consultation, and joie de vivre)
  • Harvey Pekar (whose wonderful articles on Joe Maneri made me rethink the project)


Photo Credit
Joe Maneri

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