By Jessica Barbour
Joe Muranyi, the American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, and singer — perhaps best known as the last clarinetist to perform with Louis Armstrong and his All Stars — passed away on April 20th at the age of 84. Muranyi was a working musician for over 60 years, from his time as a teenager playing in an Air Force band to his recordings with the Orient Dixieland Jazz Band in the 1990s and for years afterward. He toured with the All Stars in the heart of his career, from 1967 until 1971, the year of the eponymous bandleader’s death.
Muranyi was the son of Hungarian immigrants, and came to perform and record frequently in his parents’ homeland, though his permanent home was in New York. He became a well-known musician in Hungary, appearing often on TV and radio, and was the subject of two Hungarian documentaries.
His love for the work of Louis Armstrong (who famously couldn’t pronounce Muranyi’s Hungarian surname and referred to the clarinetist onstage as “Joe Ma Rainey”) lasted long beyond Armstrong’s lifetime, and Muranyi maintained an archive of materials on the man. He played in the Louis Armstrong Jazz Festival in Bánk for several years; recordings of his performances there are available on YouTube.
14 January 1928 – 20 April 2012