Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.
Versatile "Late Show With David Letterman" bandleader Paul Shaffer frequently sits in with all types of rock'n'rollers. Last week at New York's Village Underground, however, he manned keyboards behind an all-star jazz group headed by guitarist Tisziji (pronounced "tis-see-gee") Muñoz and featuring saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Ravi Coltrane, drummer Rashied Ali and bassist Don Pate.
Turns out that the under-recognized Muñoz was Shaffer's mentor.
"I was studying sociology in Toronto -- but I wasn't grooving on it," Shaffer says. He recalls happening upon Muñoz one summer morning in 1969 after an all-nighter.
"This guy was sitting on a stoop playing acoustic guitar -- and I had to stop," continues Shaffer, who was riveted by Muñoz's soaring melodies. "It was modal playing-like [John] Coltrane. I introduced myself, and he immediately took me under his wing."
Both Shaffer and the Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Muñoz have since moved to New York. "Over the years I've been on television, I've played with so many of the greats of all genres," he says. "But I could never have played with Miles Davis or Dizzy Gillespie or especially Coltrane's accompanist, McCoy Tyner, if I hadn't apprenticed with Tisziji."
Muñoz, whose signature single-line guitar style stems from a childhood injury to his left wrist, has since "remained true to his spiritualistic musical expression," Shaffer says, recording prolifically and writing extensively about his philosophy. The pair have now produced Muñoz's new "Divine Radiance" album for his Dreyfus Jazz-distributed Anami Music label.
As the title suggests, the album reflects Muñoz's spiritualism. But the project, which commenced in spring 2001, inevitably reacted to the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
"It was a situation that required deft handling of conscious spontaneous expression," Muñoz says, citing Coltrane's "evolution into that kind of freedom and intuitive domain." But Muñoz also wanted to pass Coltrane's "spiritual torch" to his son Ravi -- who was only 2 when his father died -- through Sanders, a member of Coltrane's mid-'60s free jazz combos.
"So I was ready to play with these cats in a free thing-but then 9/11 came, and I felt a catastrophic emotional need giving shape to my vision," Muñoz explains. "The music became a force field for transcendence for every conceivable kind of pain."
Excerpted from the June 28, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.
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