Syracuse, New York native Joe Magnarelli first played music at age 12, starting with guitar and trumpet lessons. He also picked out songs on the piano by ear.
Joe’s early performance experience, from elementary through high school, came via playing the trumpet and guitar in church. Later, while attending Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, he was the pianist and choir director at the Central Baptist Church there.
In 1986, Joe received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the State University of New York in Fredonia, and that year, he moved to New York City to pursue a career in music.
Mags, as he’s known, soon became a regular participant on the Manhattan-and-beyond jazz scene. From 1987, he toured and recorded with Lionel Hampton and Brother Jack McDuff.
In 1990, Joe was a semifinalist at the Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition in Washington, D.C. That decade also found him performing and recording with the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra, Harry Connick, Jr., the Hard Bop Quintet, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and Grant Stewart. He also performed with Jon Hendricks, the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra, Ben Wolfe, and many others.
Joe made his debut as a leader with 1994’s “Why Not” (Criss Cross). He’s followed that excellent album with three others, all on Criss Cross: “Always There” (1997), “Mr. Mags” (2000), “Hoop Dreams” (2005). Joe recorded Persistence (2008) on the Reservoir Jazz Label.
He also made two albums co-leading a sextet with the legendary Philadelphia trumpeter John Swana: “Philly-New York Junction” (1998), and “New York-Philly Junction” (2003).
In 2003-2006, Mags performed with the great Latin jazz conguero Ray Barretto’s New Sextet. Joe recorded on Ray’s “Time Was, Time Is” (O+ Music), which was nominated for a Grammy.
Other artists and ensembles Joe has performed with include the Louis Hayes Quintet, the Marty Sheller Nonet, the Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra, Dado Maroni, Rosemary Clooney, the Tom Harrell Big Band, Spike Wilner’s Planet Jazz, Harry Whitaker, Junior Mance, John Pizzarelli, Mark Sherman, and Don Sebesky.
Joe is also a teacher. He is currently an adjunct professor of music at the New School for Social Research in New York, and New Jersey City University in Jersey City, New Jersey. He also conducts clinics and master classes around the world, sharing his musical experience and his knowledge from his past teachers. These teachers have included Jack Palmer, Sal Amico, Tommy Turrentine, James Moody, Garry Dial, Arnold Jacobs, and William Vachianno.