Joe Janiga is a powerful and sensitive drummer/ percussionist/ composer originally from DeKalb Illinois who's versatility and creativity allow him to adapt to most any musical situation. Joe's earliest musical influences come from the heavy rock sensibilities of Jethro Tull, Sabbath, Santana and Led Zepplin (The Animals was his first album which his grandfather bought for him thinking it was about animals...) and of course R&B. Later he became attracted to jazz in all it's forms and devoted the majority of his musical life studying it. While studying percussion and jazz at the University of Oregon he discovered African music and drumming (through The Dance Africa of which he was a founding percussionist), "Avante-garde" music in the form of Ornette Coleman, The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Charles Mingus, Captain Beefheart, King Crimson, and Funkadelic. Other sources of inspiration have been Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Taoism and Quantum Mechanics --all of which enhanced his outlook on life and hence music. From then on Joe has had a deep interest in ethnomusicology, specifically in relation to percussion and the original and assimilated African influences on music systems of other cultures.
With the U of O only offering classical percussion degrees at that time (and his passion being for jazz and ethnic musics) he eventually left the percussion degree program, received a minor in music and finished his schooling in the visual arts namely painting and printmaking.
His next adventure was moving to Brazil for a year where he studied Brazilian percussion with "Formigga" Nunez and anyone else he met in late night jams at the bars. This was an amazing adventure of music, travel, and culture. Anyone who knows Brazil knows it is one of the biggest-hearted and richest cultures in the world.
3 Leg Torso and Klezmocracy
Next Joe played in the now infamous NPR profiled group 3 Leg Torso which is a fusion of chamber, jazz, middle-eastern, Xavier Cugat inspired latin and cartoon music. In 3 Leg Torso his talent for playing complicated figures and charts with shifting meters and quick section changes was liberally utilized on drumset and various percussion instruments ranging from congas to dumbeks and from woodblocks to vibraslaps. Joe played on 3 Leg Torso's album "Astor In Paris" which was an Oregonian top 10 pick for 2003.
Finally, a project came along where he could explore the middle-eastern rhythms (namely Klezmer) that he had started to be attracted to, but also be able to pull on all of his influences especially the improvisational sense of jazz, the contrapuntal/highly syncopated rhythms of latin and african musics and the heaviness of rock. That in mind he put together a collection of musicians that had diverse roots but had a strong tendency towards improvisation and with the help of the co-founder and keyboardist Ralph Huntley, Klezmocracy was born.
From the beginning Klezmocracy was a critical success and the attendance to their wild concerts attracted much interest from Portland and national klezmer and jazz luminaries. All of whom eventually became friends, collaborators and ultimately recorded with the band. These players included Jack "Yankl" Falk and Lev Liberman (founder of the Klezmorim) and David Valdez. Klezmocracy was at the forefront of the Klezmer movement in Portland leading the fray into uncharted territories hitherto unkown in this part of the country. Klezmocracy has played at most of Portland's and the Pacific Northwest's major festivals including the Cathedral Park Jazz Fest and the Portland Jazz Fest. The band has also been the focus of Oregon Public Broadcasting's television series Art Beat. Which profiles different artists in Oregon. Klezmocracy released their first self-titled CD in 2004.
Dance, Film and Musical Theater
Joe has been a long time dance accompanist (15 years and counting!) and for quite a few of those has accompanied dance at Reed College and Oregon Ballet Theater, both in studio and at the Public schools for their project Find and Outreach programs.
He has also collaborated with local modern dance choreographers to create original music for their works. The most recent being "Slip Knot" a duet by Carla Mann. Other collaborations include a series of works with choreographer, dancer (and wife) Margretta Hansen for 10 Tiny Dances and Tere Mathern Dance's performance of "Elements and Other Works."
Joe has composed music for Oregon Ballet Theater's segment on the National Young Audiences Program's website and DVD and has recorded music for film for Grammy winner Joan Gratz, and music for Chel White's animated film "Magda" which premiered at the 33rd Rotterdam International Film Festival. He has been a sideman in local commercials, for Powell's books. Joe has also co-composed and original score for Google's film "In The Realm Of The Final Inch", which is about the eradication of polio in the world.
Joe has additionally been the resident drummer/percussionist, and composer for Do Jump! Extremely Physical Theater since 2000 appearing in their seasonal runs and national tours.
The film "The Final Inch" which Joe co-scored with Courtney Von Drehle was nominated for an Oscar in 2009. The score for that same film was nominated for an Emmy in 2010.
In the past he worked as musical director for The Lord Leebrick Theatre and has also played in various musicals including "Working" by Studs Terkel.
During his ongoing stint with Klezmocracy, he has freelanced with various groups in Portland including the legendary blues guitarist and producer Terri Robb, Bill Rhoades and the Party Kings and Renato Caranto's Jazz Quartet.
Joe played a long stint with renowned Afro-Peruvian guitarist Alfredo Muro's Latin Ensemble playing Mr. Muro's particularly high powered, improvosational style of South American and Caribean music which covered styles from Brazil, Peru, and Cuba. He was then asked to play and record for the critically acclaimed pop artist McKinley's CD "Goner" in which the musical stylings were sparse, delicate and pulse-oriented. This CD was also an Oregonian top 10 for 2003.
Joe was co-musical director of Live Wire Radio for it's first few years. He has played w/ the late jazz icon Frank Morgan. He played with Jorge Zamorano's Bossa Nouveau, a group dedicated to playing many different facets and styles of Brazilian music. The arrangements by Jorge Zamorano included obscure Jobim tunes and others by Milton Nasciemento, Djvan, Gilberto Gil, Airto, and Zamorano's originals. This group has also played the Portland Jazz Fest.
Lately Joe has been enjoying exploring electronics and looping and making his own samples and then incorporating this into his percussion work both onstage with the various groups he plays in and as a dance accompanist. He also is excited to be working with composer and multi-instrumentalist Courtney Von Drehle in their new project Voniga, which is simultaneously a music house, improvising unit, prog/pop band and whatever other hat it decides to wear.