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September 14 , 2009

Maneri, Galasso, Minkoff

The past weeks have seen the deaths of three highly original artists who contributed important work to ECM. All three were travelers between cultures and idioms.

Joe Maneri, improviser, composer, microtonal theorist, educator and poet, died on August 24 in Boston. He was 82 years old. A formidable force on clarinet and saxophones, Joseph Gabriel Esther Maneri received international recognition only late in life. For nearly forty years, he taught at the New England Conservatory, passing on his knowledge to many improvisers, and also founded and directed the Boston Microtonal Society, presenting performances of new composition.

A professional musician from the age of 16, Maneri was amongst the first jazz players to experiment with “free” playing. In 1946, in New York, he was part of a pioneering quartet “composing together through improvising. We didn’t play tunes, we used imitations of Schoenbergian tone-rows and ‘rhythmic semblances’ of Stravinsky with jazz feelings of that time.” For ten years he studied with Austrian conductor/composer Josef Schmid, who had been one of Alban Berg’s last pupils, subsidizing his studies by playing in Brooklyn’s clubs and bars, sometimes playing alongside Greek clarinet virtuoso Charlie Gardenis.

By 1970, however, Maneri had largely retreated into academia. His son, violinist/violist Mat Maneri, persuaded him to play as guest with the trio Persona: in time this evolved into the Joe Maneri Quartet. The poignant, slurred beauty of Joe’s alto, tenor and clarinet improvisations caught the ear of Paul Bley, who recommended him to ECM.

Joe subsequently recorded five albums for the label: “Three Men Walking” (1995), “In Full Cry” (1996), “Blessed” (1997), “Tales of Rohnlief” (1998), and “Angles of Repose” (2002) .

Michael Galasso, violinist, improviser, composer, died on September 9 in Paris, at the age of 60.

Born in Louisiana, where he made his classical debut at11 playing Vivaldi with the New Orleans Philharmonic, by his mid-teens Galasso was already cross referencing the experimentalism of John Cage and the music of the post-Schoenbergian serialists with the sounds of the swamplands: blues, Cajun music, zydeco (“it was there in the air, you breathed it in and became impregnated with it”). Jazz pianist Ellis Marslais initiated him into the world of jazz improvisation. In 1972, Galasso began working with stage director Robert Wilson into whose theatre pieces he could bring all of his knowledge. Galasso worked with Wilson for more than thirty years, and indeed became a composer in the process of filling the long gaps in Wilson’s mininalistic works.

Travel around the world with Wilson brought Galasso into contact with other cultural expressions and he stayed in Iran in the mid-1970s to study Persian music and to work with local musicians. The intricacies of Eastern rhythm subsequently became part of his own music.

Galasso, never especially ardent in the promotion of his own ‘career’, recorded only two disc for ECM; “Scenes” in 1982 and “High Lines”, begun in 2002 and finished in 2004. Both discs have been sought out by film makers and choreographers, and Galasso was increasingly commissioned to write new music for movies – of which the most successful was Wong Kar-Wai's "In the mood for love". He also composed the score for Iranian director Babak Payami's "Secret Ballot" and Turkish director Yesim Ustaoglu's "Waiting for the Clouds” and made numerous sound and music installations.


Gérald Minkoff, the Swiss photographer and video artist, whose work was featured on the covers of many ECM sleeves, died in Spain on August 2. He was 72.
For more than 40 years, Minkoff had collaborated with fellow photographer Muriel Olesen, their travels around the globe are documented in films, books and countless images.

Minkoff’s striking photographs appear on the covers of Heiner Goebbels’ “Eislermaterial” and “Surrogate Cities”, the Keller Quartet’s “The Art of the Fugue”, Louis Sclavis’s “L’affrontememt des prétendants”, Ghazal’s “The Rain”, Elliott Carter’s “What Next?”, the Trio Mediaeval’s “Stella Maris”, Anouar Brahem’s “Astrakhan Café” and many others. He had the master photographer’s eye for capturing the unique moment. Speaking of this in the book “Horizons Touched” he quoted Paul Auster: “When you live in the city you learn to take nothing for granted”, adding “That is why I know that I am seeing everything – and hearing it – for the first time...but also for the last time.”