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Joe Maneri

2.9.27 – 8.24.09

Joe Maneri

Love line! Love line!” This was Joe’s highest compliment, given to the student whose four-part harmony progression, put up on the board and just sung by the class, was both within the guidelines of the style and inspired. No teacher I had ever addressed the hard work and excitement of musical growth with the directness and honesty that Joe did. When students slacked off, he’d look out the window and talk about jobs with two-martini lunches, professions that let you off at 5 p.m.; but music was full time, a life, a passion, don’t count on any big reward, and what were you going to choose?

I took one year of 18th-19th century harmony, and one year of 12-tone/quarter-tone composition with Joe as a student at the New England Conservatory of Music in the mid-1970s. Sometime during that second year I began to improvise with Joe at his house, sometimes as a duo with all our horns spread around his living room, sometimes with bassist Ed Schuller or pianist Richard Eisenstein. I continued playing with Joe for years after graduating and moving to New York City, always in his mother’s brownstone in Brooklyn. We’d play wild music, slippery and exuberant, and then Mrs. Maneri would serve us espresso and Italian cookies in her immaculate Old World home. The day always included long talks with Joe and his beloved wife, Sonja, about the directions music was going in and what it meant.

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Originally Published