A tribute to Dom Minasi

Volume 123, No. 8September, 2023

John Pietaro

The beloved jazz guitarist Dom Minasi passed on August 1, aged 80, following several arduous, confining periods of illness. But even within that time, he maintained enthusiastic contact with the music world outside of his Upper West Side apartment windows, recording new material, writing articles for AllAboutJazz, listening to everything, and of course working gigs whenever possible. One of these was through “Music for the Soul,” Local 802’s partner program with NYC Health + Hospitals. That day, the fluid, aerial sound of Dom’s jazz guitar sang to the rafters of Harlem Hospital.

A professional musician since he was in his teens, Dom first joined Local 802 in 1959, then rejoined Local 802 last year after decades away, expressing utter joy when told that our membership department still had his original card number waiting. But that’s exemplary of the way Dom was. He loved the simple things and ignored what ailed him if there was even the prospect of having a guitar in hand. When playing — or simply when in the presence of his wife, vocalist Carol Mennie–Dom’s soft gaze and unassuming smile were perennials.

Accounts of Dom’s gigs in New York and everywhere are legion. He was signed to Blue Note in 1974, recording a pair of albums, and later that decade performed with Frank Foster, George Coleman, Dave Brubeck, Roger Kellaway and Jimmy Heath, among others. He became immersed in jazz composition and arranging, studying formally at CUNY, and was a principal of the Manhattan Improvisational Chamber Ensemble. A sought-after private teacher, Dom also became a teaching artist with Young Audiences New York, creating a music literacy component which inspired an entire body of work geared toward the city’s youth. He also authored three books on harmony and improvisation.

Dom found a vital place between “in” and “out” music, even recording an album of Duke Ellington’s music by way of the guitarist’s own free jazz spirit (yes, Dom was known to complain of having been fired from too many straight-ahead jobs). As a band leader, many of his best moments were in the company of Carol, but as both enjoyed separate, thriving careers, Dom was very proud of his organ trio which paired ‘50s tradition with the widest spectrum of sound. Still, whether on a bandstand together or not, Dom referred to Carol as “my best friend, my muse,” and the magic of their pairing remains ongoing.

Dom is survived by wife Carol Mennie, son Dominic Minasi, and daughter Maryanne Minasi Agro.

Please take a moment to enjoy this video of the Dom Minasi Organ Trio’s rendition of Thelonious Monk’s classic “Round Midnight” (with Kyle Kohler and Jay Rosen). It, more than any words written, conveys the majesty of his musicianship and the echo of tacit in his loss.

Rest in sonic power, Dom.