A Swell Farewell...and Onward
That group had a unique distinction: All four members mastered words as well as music, and their debut album had liners by each. Joe was, in fact, the author of many excellent liner notes for a variety of performers. He studied with Lennie Tristano, but early trad and swing were closest to his heart.
Joe also was active in mid-career as a record producer. But he will surely go down in history for his stint as the Louis Armstrong All Star's last clarinetist, from 1967 to 1971. After Louis died, Joe joined Roy Eldridge's house band at Jimmy Ryan's, doubling on soprano sax, as he had with the Scum. He also frequently led his own groups, and in later years often performed in New Orleans. There, in 2001, he made one of his best records, Joe Muranyi with the New Orleans Real Low Down (Jazzology, 2002), a title that makes it sound more traddy than a repertory that includes his own "Dippermouth Suite," dedicated to you-know-who, the Duke Ellington rarity "Azalea," which he also sings, and "Jeepers Creepers." (That's on Jazzology, which means it's still in catalog.)
Joe Muranyi was the subject of a choice documentary film made for Hungarian TV. He was proud of his Hungarian heritage. On one of our first get-togethers, when he lived in Greenwich Village, and we'd walk to his apartment after a Stuyvesant or Central Plaza session and listen to records from his already interesting collection, he produced a tarogato. He drew warm sounds from this old Hungarian woodwind relative of the recorder.
Joe often visited Hungary and was revered by the local traditional jazz players. For many years, he worked on a book about Louis. It was nearly finished, and this friend hopes that Joe's heirs will find someone to complete the biography and see it into print.