The master dance
Spirit-taught, avant-garde jazz virtuoso and extreme guitarist, Tisziji Muñoz is best known for his uniquely original guitar sound and playing style, likened to that of a spiritual tornado. Born on July 15, 1946, his career has spanned over five decades and includes a vast repertoire of creative works and inspired compositions released by his independent label, Anami Music.
Tisziji has received unqualified praise from such artists and fellow collaborators as Rashied Ali, Pharoah Sanders, Elvin Jones, McCoy Tyner, Henry Kaiser and Ra Kalam Bob Moses.
Rashied Ali: “Tisziji’s music can go anywhere at any time. His open and free conception is what I’ve been working towards all my life. Tisziji Muñoz is a creative genius and he demonstrates that when we play. It is a way of life with him. He is of that different order of life, being humble, extraordinary and very spiritual.”
Tisziji’s profound interest in ‘jazz’ as a language and an innovative process was sparked in 1968 when he was introduced to the music of John Coltrane while enlisted in the US Army 440th General’s Band. Upon discharge from military service, Tisziji pursued his musical interests in Canada and took a lead role in the development of Toronto’s underground music scene, where he began a long-lasting, working relationship with pianist Paul Shaffer and performed as guitarist in the musicals Hair and Godspell.
Paul Shaffer: “I have 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 Muñoz does. He is very spiritual, and as a guitar player he swings wild.”
In the mid-70’s, Tisziji returned to New York City and began a dynamic collaborative relationship with master-of-sound saxophonist Pharoah Sanders in such renowned settings as the Village Vanguard, the Village Gate, Sweet Basil, Fat Tuesday’s, the Keystone and Lighthouse.
Pharoah Sanders: “He thinks and plays on a higher level. Tisziji plays with that spiritual quality that is about being Free. That is in his music, that unique Sound. If you want to know about Tisziji, you have to listen to his music.”
In the years that followed, Tisziji moved to upstate New York to fulfill his destiny as a composer, author, time master/astrologer and visionary, releasing an extensive body of unique projects featuring jazz greats Pharoah Sanders, Dave Liebman, Ravi Coltrane, Lam Sobo John Medeski, Ra Kalam Bob Moses, Marilyn Crispell, Paul Shaffer, Steve Kuhn, Bernie Senensky, Henry Kaiser, Don Pate, John Lockwood, Billy Hart, and the late greats Rashied Ali, Lew Soloff, John Hicks, Nick Brignola and Hilton Ruiz.
Henry Kaiser: “Tisziji’s music is essential listening for any guitarists or souls interested in how music can transcend physicality and the moment to open doors to new ideas and worlds. He is one of my biggest guitar heroes. But it’s NOT because he plays guitar. I think it’s almost completely irrelevant that Tisziji makes his music with a traditional six-string axe. What IS relevant is the music that Tisziji brings back with his guitar. For Tisziji does not reach into a bag of licks and tricks to create music, as most guitarists do. On the contrary, he goes OUT THERE SOMEWHERE and channels energy that is converted into guitar sounds by his physical being. That’s what is important to me: the message that Tisziji brings into this plane through his earthly music practice.”
Phil Ramone: “Tisziji Muñoz is the Hendrix-Coltrane of the guitar. His music is pure American avant-garde.”
A ‘guitar-god’ to many, Tisziji has adopted an ascetic lifestyle and rarely appears in public but has surfaced from time to time in the most conventional of settings. He has led the McCoy Tyner Trio at the acoustically unique Troy Savings Bank Music Hall and joined Pharoah Sanders at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Tisziji has appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman as a guest artist, and at Carnegie Hall with Paul Shaffer. A historic Village Underground performance produced by Paul Shaffer featured Tisziji as leader of an all-star band including Ravi Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Paul Shaffer, Rashied Ali and Don Pate. Tisziji has been a featured artist at The Iridium and at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and his musical philosophy has been documented in numerous radio interviews, to include the BBC, Harvard University, Boston University and New England Conservatory broadcasts.
Recent collaborations between Tisziji and Lam Sobo John Medeski may have increased the public’s recognition of this creative master of melody and composition; a captivating guitarist given to lyrical torrents of free improvisation, but he remains the ‘best kept secret’ in the jazz community.
Lam Sobo John Medeski: “Tisziji’s songs are beautiful and simple yet complex and deep classic melodies, every one of them. His songs put me in the space that I most love playing music.”
An accomplished author, Tisziji has independently published numerous written works encompassing his own Heart-Fire Sound realization and embracing the subjects of spirituality, genius, creativity and time mastery. His books and music have radically transformed the manner in which musicians think and play music, validating the spirit of the genuine creative artist – from the inside out.
Ra Kalam Bob Moses: “Tisziji’s writings, for me, are so intense; a couple of lines are enough for me. It’s like it is with his music. He starts out with a melody and then it triggers more. One paragraph of his writing sends me reeling off into infinity. Tisziji’s music is fundamentally unlike any other. I unabashedly and without hesitation recognize Tisziji as a genius…not a genius of academic credentials, memory, language, technique, art, culture and tradition, but more a voodoo, juju, native, Shamanic Spirit genius. One who is free to recreate the world, in the moment, all at once, to serve the needs of Spirit, not the self. His Sound and Word destroy and heal me like no other.
The Master Dance of Tisziji Muñoz: The Authorized Biography, Parts 1 – 10 by Nancy Muñoz & Lydia R. Lynch
The impetus for beginning the biography was to help others better understand Tisziji’s function, to try and encourage those who misunderstood to look more closely and to see beyond their own perceptions of how a master, teacher, musician, son, brother, uncle, husband, father, yogi, writer, healer, and genius should be, and open to what one could be, or what one, if chosen, already is. Perfectly aware of, but unrestricted by the roles most of us identify with, Tisziji has transformed and transcended all such definitions without shirking any of the real responsibilities that come with the territory, exhibiting grace and insight along the way. And even though many things have changed over the years — names, surroundings, associates, the condition of the body — Tisziji’s commitment to Spirit has never wavered. Even now that Tisziji has numerous books, musical releases and videos that may offer some insight into who Tisziji is, as a creative intelligence he remains impossible to describe. He is not dictated to by time yet his sense of urgency remains intact. His patience is tested to an infinite degree and yet he remains a diligent taskmaster. He is blessed with an altruistic spirit and yet is an eccentric individual. He is a fearless and gentle spirit. The quality of his love knows no bounds. Tisziji’s Heart-Fire Sound speaks to me like no other. The Master’s Dance has graced us all, and I hope that in this work you find creative insight into your own Master Dance. - Nancy Muñoz (Subhuti Kshanti Sangha-Gita-Ma)
Part 1 – Childhood
From his earliest memories of infanthood through a turbulent childhood and rebellious adolescence, Tisziji has been aware of certain spiritual forces shaping his consciousness. For him, supra-natural experiences have been a natural lifelong occurrence. Tisziji, deeply in tune with the sound current from birth, has been exploring the musical realms since infancy. Having been strongly influenced by a Catholic family’s spiritualist practice that was ordinary by some standards and unconventional by others, Tisziji’s childhood was filled with great trials and tribulations, which strengthened his inner sensitivities and gave him many foundational lessons about suffering to draw upon in later years.
Part 2 – Military Service
By the age of 17, Tisziji had experienced the spiritual dimensions of consciousness, endured tragic family karma, and had realized the beauty and power of music, while recognizing the ugliness of the music business in general. He survived the lessons of the street and tasted the bittersweet illusory promises and dangerous pitfalls of romance as manipulative bondage programming created out of self-pleasing seduction and deception mechanisms.
Part 3 – Doctor of Music
Tisziji: “After the initiatory self-death experiences in the Army, neither relationships, commitments, nor obligations felt the same anymore. Attachments and values took on a totally different quality. They had become less like realities and more like things to let go of, and therefore less emotionally intense. Spiritually, my obligation and commitment to military discipline and service was complete. The good spirits had contacted me and revealed to me that it was time to move on, that I had learned what I was supposed to learn, and that such lessons were only a step in a progression of many other transformations, shocks, breakthroughs, openings and awakenings into radical self-liberation.”
In April 1969, at twenty-two years of age, knowing that he was destined to briefly live in Canada, Tisziji moved with Ellen, Michael and his newborn daughter, Ananda (born December 13th, 1968) to Toronto, the “city by the lake” revealed to Tisziji in the dream state. The move, guided by Spirit, was a critical one, as Tisziji expanded beyond the limitations of the Army and opened to deeper spiritual and musical possibilities.
Part 4 – Who are the Real Christians?
Having temporarily removed himself from the worldly phase of musician servant, Tisziji, transcending jazz structure and culture, was moving into the realm of spiritual servant. His personal contact with jazz music masters in Toronto was being replaced by contact with spiritual masters, whom Tisziji accessed through their written works and through psychic, meditational, spiritual, or direct personal contact.
Destined to become a teacher, Tisziji assimilated a vast amount of wisdom from many of the world’s great spiritual teachings. This awakened the need to re-examine the Christian roots and core teachings of Roman Catholicism, and find out for himself who a real Christian was, apart from Jesus Christ. While Tisziji’s research of such teachings was of significant value to his progression, he was already transcending these works and creating his own unique, free of all schools, ‘the no school’ teaching and practice.
Part 5 – The Cosmic Master Peace of Spiritual Realization
Fulfilling his next step of training in mastership, Tisziji had to open wide his mind and heart to the wisdom of the universe, the wisdom of the universal Spirit, and the wisdom of transcendent free Soul. Thus, in 1970, while in Toronto, Tisziji decided to engage in a respectful consideration of some of the great world religions, schools of spiritual practices, and levels of world teachers. Tisziji was not interested in the ideas of traditions for the sake of ideas. He was more interested in where these ideas were failing to promote genuine “suffering-free realization,” giving him specific evidence of areas of darkness to illuminate and burn with his own teachings. Therefore, he was determined to create and share universal common ground with other practitioners and adepts from other schools of thought and intuitive realization throughout the world, and this he did.
Tisziji: “I have always enjoyed sharing my deep appreciation and respect for the great works of other teachers and paths. I have encouraged others to learn from my tolerance of different views and from my insight into the spiritual workings of other paths. I have also encouraged that those who choose to study with me give all teachings and teachers a fair hearing in order that they too may wonder in awe of how great the transcendent Spirit is, and its marvelous universal work, and how strange it often appears in its selection of its channels. Thus, I have also taught to look deeper than appearances, to see beyond the theater of the times, to look into the Heart of the word itself, and to see if the spiritual fire isn’t working to liberate as many beings as possible, through as many forms as possible. See if Spirit’s work as an awakenment agency isn’t working equally through primitive people, sophisticated people, poor people, rich people, Christian people, Native people, Hindu people, Muslim people, Hebrew people, Buddhist people, spiritualist people, scientific people, artistic people, creative people, humble people, arrogant people, disabled people, noble people, warring people, peaceful people, ignorant people, and enlightened people, through each and every one, big and small, high and low.”
Part 6 – The One or the No One?
Having studied the works of some of the greatest spiritual Masters in history, this next phase brought Tisziji into intense sound and light meditation practice. Tisziji’s return to New York from Canada through Toronto and Vancouver (1973-74) marked the beginning of a very dharmically active phase in his life. He was undergoing intense inner purification and was walking his way, step by step, into deeper levels of practice and world transcending self-realization, leaving his early life family karma far behind.
Part 7 – Self-Mastery, The Mastership and the Living Master
In 1978, by the force of Spirit, Tisziji began to teach certain beings from his tiny apartment in the Bowery of New York City. This location, which he called Holy Ground, was a gathering point for many working and practicing musicians around the lower east side of Manhattan. As a result of his own practice and unfoldment, Tisziji was able to initiate specific teachings for whoever showed up with an appropriate need. From this, as requested, he completed certain written works during this phase. He also completed his first album, Rendezvous With Now, and began work on another, Visiting This Planet. Tisziji moved gracefully between and through all these works while also raising three children. And it was all done with the help of his mother, Milly (Sat-janami), and his Aunt Gracie (Siddha-ma), who were supporting his spiritual efforts every step of the way.
Part 8 – The Path of Opened Mindedness
The late seventies and early eighties brought about the completion of Tisziji’s involvement with Eckankar and marked the last of his explorations into many of the important ancient and new age spiritual works. Having absorbed and transcended these teachings, and having received involuntary sacred initiations and empowerments along the way, Tisziji’s spiritual mission began to emerge with more clarity and purpose.
Just as Tisziji’s work was about to take form, Karen (Karuna) gave birth to Tisziji’s son, Just-Hu Rebazar Muñoz, who would prove to be a great musical spirit in his own right. This birth seemed to herald a new beginning as this was concurrent with the time when Tisziji began stretching out as a creative musician and began accepting and expanding his role as a teacher and guiding spirit.
Part 9 - Tisziji as Progenitor
The creation of The Illumination Society (T.I.S.) in 1980 was the catalyst for Tisziji’s growing body of increasingly profound and complex written works and recorded Satsang teachings. The fact of the relative levels of progressive understanding of those who came to Tisziji for guidance made it critically necessary, in the case of those beings who were suffering and recognized the need to master such suffering, that Tisziji point them directly towards practicing certain, often very specific, self-liberation techniques.
It is in this dynamic and creative teaching environment that Tisziji’s children were fortunate to be exposed to his sound (music) and light (wisdom) works. Tisziji’s children were and are not primary practitioners of the technologies that he offered students. But it is clear to Tisziji that his children were nevertheless positively affected by his yogic practices, which included transforming pain and transcending suffering as these apply to the practices of music, sound, meditation and healing.
Part 10 - Completing the Great Pilgrimage and Transcending Jazz with McCoy Tyner
The dissolution of The Illumination Society created an opportunity for changes of direction to take place. Tisziji taught that one cannot allow oneself to remain in a static, non-progressing state, that all relations, beings, places, circumstances, and things are to be enjoyed or suffered on a temporary basis, that there is a cycle of fulfillment that seems to complete itself only to begin anew, like the cycle of life and death. The ‘healing’ trips to Toronto, juggling fatherhood, musicianship, the role of teacher, college studies, and absorbing the karmas and suffering of his students were cumulatively affecting Tisziji’s health. These factors, combined with the inherent stresses of city living, affected Tisziji physically and intensified his need for subtle-body spiritual practice. He found it increasingly difficult to do pranayama, or yogic breathing exercises, at his lower east side residence. It became evident that Tisziji needed yet another major change, and preparations were initiated for a move to upstate New York, just west of Albany.
Tisziji would also have several death-like encounters that would impact his work as a teacher and musician. In the spirit of transcending all forms of suffering, to include death, Tisziji dedicated himself to channeling his realization, which became the heart-source of his writings. Thus, with these preliminary works, The Illumination Society, as an independent publishing company, evolved. With renewed vision and sense of purpose, Tisziji also completed and released his monumental Visiting This Planet album. While opportunities to play live were less frequent than in earlier years, Tisziji nevertheless played with tremendous power, which reached phenomenal proportions when he led McCoy Tyner and his trio for two nights of great music in May 1989.