Joe Muranyi, jazz clarinetist who played in Louis Armstrong’s band, has died at age 84

Jack Bradley/Louis Armstrong House Museum - Louis Armstrong, left, and Joe Muranyi jam at their first rehearsal together in 1967.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Joe Muranyi, who was bandleader Louis Armstrong’s last clarinetist and became a leading ambassador in the effort to preserve the traditional jazz sound on records and in concert, died April 20 at a hospital in New York. He was 84.

He had congestive heart failure and bladder cancer, said his wife, Jorun Hansen.

He liked to recount that Armstrong, upon meeting him in 1967, couldn’t pronounce his Hungarian surname. Mr. Muranyi suggested that Armstrong say it like the 1920s blues singer Ma Rainey. “He broke up laughing, he never forgot it,” Mr. Murayni told Armstrong biographer Ricky Riccardi. “A lot of cats in the business call me, ‘Hey, Ma Rainey!’ ”

As a young man, Mr. Muranyi studied with such modern improvisers as pianist Lennie Tristano, but he remained joyfully defiant in his musical tastes. His passion was squarely on the exuberant and melodic traditional jazz pioneered by Armstrong, even as it gradually lost popular ground to rock-and-roll and the thrilling jolt of bebop jazz, favored by such musicians as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

By his teens, in the 1940s, Mr. Muranyi was sitting in at Jimmy Ryan’s New York nightclub with the New Orleans trumpeter Bunk Johnson. He subsequently worked with some of the finest traditional jazz musicians of the era, including Jimmy McPartland, Max Kaminsky, Henry “Red” Allen, Yank Lawson and Bobby Hackett.

Terry Teachout, the jazz scholar and critic, called Mr. Murayni “an absolutely first-rate clarinetist. . . . He was, in the very best sense of the word, a journeyman, a professional who played this familiar style with great passion and seriousness. He developed a long liquid tone and beautiful phrasing.”

Continue reading the rest of the story on The Wall Street Journal