Saturday, September 10, 2016

Before They Were Famous: Joe Maneri

Microtonal jazz pioneer Joe Maneri was behind the mysterious Music Of Cleopatra On The Nile album. 
"The trumpet player on this album, The Music Of Cleopatra On The Nile (MVM), was a friend of my dad, Joe Maneri. He put together a band of guys known for doing Jewish and Greek weddings. The drummer was Pete Dolger. He played with my dad a lot and is on the album Paniots 9 released by Avant in 1998, but recorded in 1963. The bassist and piano player are the same as on Paniots 9 as well, John Beal and Don Burns respectively.

"So the story goes, the trumpet player who was also a wedding gig band leader put this session together. Apparently the guy playing Oud had just arrived in the US knew no English and was blind. Half way through the session the trumpet player got so drunk he couldn't play. That's why the B side is mainly Greek Folk tunes given funny names by the producer.

"My dad forgot about this recording and then his buddy who worked at a record store said, I just heard this fake soundtrack to the movie Cleopatra and the clarinet sounds like you. Joe went down to investigate and low and behold it was him. Some years after the recording for which Joe said he was paid $50, the band leader released it without any credits. Apparently it sold pretty well as the drawing of Cleopatra on the cover looks like Elizabeth Taylor and therefore some people thought it had something to do with the movie.

"Years later Joe gave his only copy of this record away to a student. In the 90s I looked through countless cut-out bins to track it down. I finally found someone selling it on eBay, but they didn't know who or what it was. I listened to the record with my dad in about 2002 shortly after I got it. He was happy to hear it, but he said, "Man, if I knew people would be listening to this thing in 40 years, I would have played better!" He sounds like a monster on this thing. I believe Harvey Pekar owned this record as well and wrote about it some years ago."       – Abe Maneri

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