Self-taught, creative musician and master of the art of improvisation, guitarist Tisziji Muñoz was born at high noon on July 15, 1946 in Brooklyn, New York. His musical spirit emerged early on when he received his first set of drums at age three, and, despite a tragic accident when he was five from which Tisziji sustained chronic nerve-damage to his left wrist, he taught himself, and mastered, most conventional Afro-Cuban rhythmic patterns, immersing himself in improvisational and trance-like drum meditations. When he was eleven, he joined a local Doo-Wop singing group, The Arrogants, recording four songs in Hollywood which included "Canadian Sunset" on Lute Records. Meanwhile, he was given a ukulele and readily taught himself to play and read ukulele music, but continued to focus on playing the drums and their ecstatic side-effects. At age thirteen, Tisziji was brought into the Mongo Santamaria circle of musicians and was recognized by some as a drum prodigy, destined to becoming a great ‘Afro-Rican’ drummer.
Tisziji’s profound interest in ‘jazz’ as a language and a creative process was sparked after serving in 1968 as a communications specialist in the U.S. Army’s 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. As a full-time member of the US Army 440th General's Band, he was featured as a percussionist and guitarist. Tisziji had begun to teach himself jazz guitar and jazz harmony, and it was at this time that he was formally introduced to the music of John Coltrane by fellow musicians.
Following his departure from military service in 1969, Tisziji pursued his interests in Canada, generating his own musical ideas as well as taking a leading role in the development of Toronto’s underground music scene. He played as guitarist in the Hair and Godspell musicals, and met and inspired the now world-famous keyboard player, Paul Shaffer, who became Tisziji’s primary accompanist from 1970 to 1972.
As Paul recalls: “Tisziji’s music was of a unique, other-worldly nature. It was intense, beautifully improvised, with haunting melodies, and although I didn’t understand it, I was galvanized. ...He began to instruct me in how to accompany and play this type of music. Thus began a musical and spiritual friendship which continues to this day. I apprenticed with Muñoz until I left Toronto for New York in 1974. He taught me first a repertoire of jazz standards, expanding my knowledge of harmony, then gradually freed me to play the modal type of spatial music with which he dealt. He formed an electric band and led me and a small group of cats in an exploration of music as a means of spiritual communication with each other and, ultimately, with G-d. He inspired me to go into music as a full-time vocation...I have [since] played with all the great guitar players, from Eric Clapton to Van Halen to Santana to Jeff Beck, and nobody plays guitar the way Tisziji Munoz does. He is very spiritual, and as a guitar player he swings wild.”
Tisziji returned to the U.S. in 1974 and began to seriously devote himself to the full time pursuit of being a creative jazz musician. He immediately met and played with the great jazz saxophonist, Pharoah Sanders, whom Tisziji later toured with. At the close of Tisziji’s six years with the Pharoah Sanders' band, he recorded with Elvin Jones and Dr. Art Davis. At the same time, Tisziji received preliminary initiations, guidance and blessings from the Hindu Yoga and Tibetan Buddhist lineage, culminating in a profound contact with His Holiness, the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa, from whom he received the Precious Black Crown Initiation.
Tisziji settled in New York City to raise his children as a single parent while leading bands comprised of varyingly great local artists, in the most unpretentious of clubs, studios, lofts and galleries, all the while developing his innovative yet individual style and unique sound. Tisziji conducted many workshops for students, and his home became a center for musicians seeking true musical direction beyond the ordinary ‘business of music’.
In 1984, Tisziji moved to upstate New York. Living in relative seclusion and away from the distractions and politics of the music scene and the world at large, Tisziji completed over fifty original written works on spiritual and musical practice and time-mastery, and created Anami Music Productions to handle the ever-expanding demands of his musical spirit. In the years following, Tisziji accumulated an extensive body of work, to include dozens of unreleased recordings and writings.
Paul Shaffer: “I recently received some recordings of the recent music Tisziji has made, and from the very first note, I felt the warm penetration of his spirit via his sound. This must be the sound of love.”