Amazon.com Widgets

Joe Manis: Killin'!

By Published: | 6,131 views
[ Editor's Note: The following interview is reprinted from George Colligan
George Colligan
George Colligan
b.1969
keyboard
's blog, Jazztruth]

Sometime last year, I got an email from a dude named Joe Manis, who said he was from Eugene and he wanted me to make a recording with him. He wanted me to play organ. I said to myself," Hmmm. Tenor player named Joe Manis. Never heard of him. Wonder if he's any good?" Well, turns out, Joe Manis is killin! It was a pleasure to make his latest recording, North By Northwest, which is now available on the Steeplechase label ( which means on iTunes, which means you barely have to lift a finger to own it!). Manis has a big tenor sound, and an aggressive improvisational approach, which is the polar opposite of his unassuming personality. Hopefully, this new recording will make more folks aware of Mr. Manis and his tough young tenor.

GC: What are your earliest memories of music?

Joe Manis: I took piano lessons when I was little, but I didn't stick with it. My dad played clarinet and my mom took piano lessons through high school for both of them. There was always music playing on the stereo at my parents' business and around the house. They took me to lots of concerts after I started band in elementary school. My parents and my grandma were always very supportive of me playing music even though they weren't musicians. My dad made me practice, which could have really backfired, but didn't. I still play my dad's clarinet.

GC: When did you know it was going to be your life's pursuit?

JM: After I started playing saxophone, I played by ear a lot. My parents had a satellite dish and they would watch Jay Leno three hours earlier than network TV—so, as an elementary schooler, I got to watch. This was when Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
b.1960
saxophone
was the bandleader and Jeff "Tain" Watts
Jeff
Jeff "Tain" Watts
b.1960
drums
was in the band. I recorded the closing credits on our VCR, learned the closing theme music, and wrote the noteheads down (with no rhythms) on a homemade piece of manuscript paper (a piece of notebook paper with a staff drawn on the lines).

My private teacher saw my "transcription" in my music folder, along with my Rubank saxophone books, and asked me what it was—I played it for him. I think he liked that I had done that on my own, but it's hard to say because he was kind of a gruff guy. Seeing those guys play on TV really made me want to be a musician, even though I didn't really know what that meant! I consider that period to be a pivotal time in my development as a musician and deciding that music was what I wanted to do.

GC: Why tenor?

JM: I went to a small high school in the country with about 450 students total. Despite being a small school, it had two full big bands and there were more people that wanted to play than there were spots in the bands. The top jazz band was competitive at high school jazz festivals. My first private teacher, Mike Wiggins, was the high school music teacher. I started on clarinet in elementary school band, then played alto and bari. Mike Wiggins switched me to tenor because he was always looking ahead to what his top jazz band was going to need. I just went with it.

GC: Who are your tenor sax heroes?

JM: Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
Joe Henderson
1937 - 2001
sax, tenor
, Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
, Warne Marsh
Warne Marsh
Warne Marsh
1927 - 1987
sax, tenor
, Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
Dave Liebman
b.1946
saxophone
, Steve Grossman
Steve Grossman
Steve Grossman
b.1951
saxophone
, Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
, Chris Speed
Chris Speed
Chris Speed

saxophone
, my teachers, Jerry Bergonzi
Jerry Bergonzi
Jerry Bergonzi
b.1947
saxophone
and George Garzone
George Garzone
George Garzone
b.1950
sax, tenor
...The list isn't limited to these players, but these are the first that come to mind.

GC: Do you have any affinity to the other saxophones?

JM: The tenor is my favorite. I play sopranino, soprano, alto, C melody, and baritone. I also play piccolo, flute, and clarinet. Being able to play various woodwinds has made me more employable, playing gigs in big bands, musicals, recordings, orchestras, rock groups, etc. However, sometimes I feel that because I can play the different woodwinds it ends up that really one of the only people that hires me on tenor is me! I also have my uncle's vintage Rogers drum set that I enjoy playing. I think that my drum set practice has helped my writing and arranging with drummers in mind, as well as my ability to communicate effectively with drummers in rehearsals. When I coach student ensembles I try to have something to show the drummers that they can't already do.

GC: Who are your musical heroes who aren't saxophone players?

JM: Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
, McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
McCoy Tyner
b.1938
piano
, Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
Elvin Jones
1927 - 2004
drums
, Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
, Tony Williams
Tony Williams
Tony Williams
1945 - 1997
drums
, Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
Freddie Hubbard
1938 - 2008
trumpet
, Lennie Tristano
Lennie Tristano
Lennie Tristano
1919 - 1978
piano
, Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
Roy Haynes
b.1926
drums
, Booker Little
Booker Little
Booker Little
1938 - 1961
trumpet
, Kevin Congleton, George Colligan
George Colligan
George Colligan
b.1969
keyboard
...

GC: What was your practice regimen?

comments powered by Disqus
Support All About Jazz Through Amazon

Weekly Giveaways

Carmen Lundy

Carmen Lundy

About | Enter

Wadada Leo Smith

Wadada Leo Smith

About | Enter

Mort Weiss

Mort Weiss

About | Enter

Rotem Sivan

Rotem Sivan

About | Enter

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.