Joe Magnarelli was born in Syracuse, NY. At the age of 12 he started to play the piano at home by ear, and a few months later started formal guitar and trumpet lessons in school. His early musical experience came playing the trumpet and guitar in church, through grammar school and high school, and then in college Joe was the pianist and choir director at the Central Baptist Church in Syracuse, NY.
Joe got his bachelors degree from Fredonia St. University, and in 1986 moved to New York City to pursue a career in music.
In 1990 Joe finished as a semifinalist at the Thelonious Monk competition. Joe's credits include working on the bands of Lionel Hampton, Jack McDuff, Toshiko Akioshi, John Hendricks, and the Carnegie Hall Jazz Orchestra. In 1994 recorded his first record for Criss Cross Jazz, Why Not. Since then Joe has recorded four more records for the Criss Cross label as a leader and numerous records as a sideman.
Joe currently works with the Ray Barretto New Sextet. Their CD release in 2005, Time Was, Time Is was nominated for a Grammy. Joe also works with Walt Weiskopf, Dick Oatts, Planet Jazz and Marty Sheller's Nonet. He leads his own small groups around New York City and Europe, promoting his Criss Cross recordings, as well as doing clinics and master classes. Joe is also a regular sub in the Village Vanguard Orchestra.