Monday, August 31, 2009

R.I.P.: Ion Muniz

(born Ion de Porto Alegre Muniz on June 19, 1948 in Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil;
died August 30, 2009 in Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil)

(Ion Muniz in a concert with Dom Um Romão & Nelson Angelo; pic by Arnaldo DeSouteiro)

No other Brazilian tenor saxophonist was more influenced by John Coltrane than Ion Muniz. And, as a flute player, he was our Eric Dolphy.
When I organized a concert series for Dom Um Romão at the Laura Alvim Hall (Casa de Cultura Laura Alvim) in late 1997, Dom Um and I invited Ion Muniz to join the band. He looked terrible on the stage, but played superbly throughout the nights, performing astonishing solos a la Coltrane on such tunes as "Afro Blue" and "Naima." Very long solos, indeed, but all marvelously constructed, lessons in both logic and fluency. Btw, the band was Dom Um on drums & percussion, Paulo Russo on bass, Nelson Angelo on guitars, Delia Fischer on keyboards, Ithamara Koorax on vocals and Ion Muniz on flute & sax. Federica Boccardo was the executive producer.
Three years later, I met him for the last time, when I attended a Claudio Roditi gig in Rio, and Ion sat in with the band.
Muniz, who started his career as a member of Victor Assis Brazil's sextet in 1967, performed and/or recorded with Edison Machado (his best friend, mentor and main influence along with Coltrane, with Muniz having recorded on Machado's legendary "Obras" album), Luiz Eça (with whom he cut another cult session, "Luiz Eça & A Sagrada Família", performing in Mexico with that all-star group), Egberto Gismonti, Maysa, Gal Costa, Agostinho dos Santos, Jards Macalé, Nelson Angelo, Ed Lincoln, the group A Bolha and many others.

After moving to New York in 1975, although he rarely recorded and never became a studio musician (session player), Muniz performed live gigs with Dom Um Romao, Claudio Roditi, Astrud Gilberto, Duduka Da Fonseca, Herbie Mann, Ron Carter, Jorge Dalto, Steve Gadd, Anthony Jackson, Joe Cuba, Dom Salvador, Walter Booker, Jimmy Cobb, Cecil McBee, Shunzo Ono, Onaje Allen Gumbs and Larry Willis (then married to Georgiana de Moraes).

He was also a member of Gaudencio Thiago de Mello's Amazon Big Band, being featured as a soloist during their engagements at the now-defunct Jazzmania club in NY.

Back in Brazil in 1983, worked once again with Luiz Eça, as well as with Pepeu Gomes, Baby Consuelo, Nana Caymmi, Joyce, Carlos Vergueiro, and on Mauricio Gueiros/Fernando Leporace's sought-after collaboration "Aldeia," (1986) not yet reissued on CD.

Having married his Finnish girlfriend, Muniz moved to Helsinki, Finland, in 1988, where he taught at music schools (like the prestigious Sibelius Akatemia), formed his own quartet, and performed as a sideman with local (Jarkko Toivonen, my dear friend whom I call "the Finnish Bonfa!") and visiting artists (Jimmy Heath). He return to Brazil in 1992, releasing his first (and, unfortunately, last) solo album in 2003, "Um Amor Eterno," for the Kalimba label, backed by the late Theomar Ferreira (a disciple of Edison Machado), Dario Galante, Edson Lobo, Lula Galvão, Franklin da Flauta, Bilinho Teixeira, Jorge Continentino & Jessé Sadoc. Ion Muniz also guested on sessions by Mauricio Gueiros & Iza Eirado ("Um Novo Amor"), Tomás Improta ("Certas Mulheres") and the landmark "Cafe Com Pão" CD, co-led by João Donato & Eloir de Moraes for Almir Chediak's Lumiar label.
Also in the early 2000s, two sessions that remained unreleased for three decades were finally issued in Europe by the UK-based label What Music: "Obras 2 - O Pulo do Gato" by Edson Machado, cut in 1971 with Haroldo Mauro Jr., Ricardo Santos, Edson Maciel & Ion, including the saxophonist's tune "Mr. Maciel") and "A Blue Donato" (with Ion on flute, alongside Edson Machado, Barnabé, Edson Lobo, Tita, Edson Maciel etc), both recorded at Bill Horne's studio. Btw, it was Bill, who passed away in 2006, who licensed such tapes. RIP.

Here's a link for a detailed bio in Portuguese:

(CD reissue of "Luiz Eça & A Sagrada Familia")


Joe Carter said...

R.I.P., Ion. I will always remember those three weeks in 1988 when we played at People Jazz Bar in Rio, you with Luiz Eca's Quintet and myself with my trio. You kicked my ass with your musicianship, meu amigo.

cb said...

Ion Muniz, I'm sad to learn (only now, through this blog) that you have left us.
Ion helped me with the translation of some of the more informal terms used by musicians when I was translating Marc Sabatella's book A Jazz Improvisation Primer (available in Portuguese at In the process, I've read all of the essays he wrote about his many interactions with other artists, like Tom Jobim, João Gilberto and many jazz musicians during his travels and performances all over the world. They were great pieces of memoir writing, and now that I see that his website is no longer accessible I hope someone from his family of friends may have somehow stored these "crônicas". They offer great insights about him and the featured people, and are essentially very funny stories to read, and should eventually be published.