Don Menza

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Don Menza
Don Menza UP.jpg
Don Menza at a concert in Germany 2010
Background information
Born (1936-04-22) April 22, 1936 (age 79)
Buffalo, New York, United States
Genres Jazz, big band, fusion
Occupation(s) Bandleader, saxophonist, arranger, educator, session musician
Instruments Saxophone
Years active 1950s-present

Don Menza (born April 22, 1936) is an American saxophonist, arranger, composer, session musician, and jazz educator noted for his many contributions to American jazz and big band music.[1]

Early years[edit]

Don Menza was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, where he began playing tenor saxophone when he was 13. He studied saxophone with musician and teacher John Sedola. After serving in the U. S. Army, he worked with Maynard Ferguson's Orchestra (1960–1962) as both a soloist and an arranger. A short tenure with Stan Kenton and a year leading a quintet in Buffalo preceded a period living in Germany (1964–68).

Later, he returned to the United States and joined Buddy Rich's 1968 big band in the "jazz tenor" chair, recording the famous solo cadenza on "Channel One Suite" (Recorded "live" at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas) that utilized circular breathing and has become known as a classic among music educators and musicians alike. In the late 1960s, he settled in California and performed in the bands of Elvin Jones (1969) and Louie Bellson. Other artists with which Menza has recorded include Nancy Sinatra, Keely Smith, Cold Blood, Natalie Cole, Pat Boone, and Leonard Cohen.[citation needed]

Educator and composer[edit]

His compositions, such as "Groovin' Hard" and "Time Check" (both favorites of Doc Severinsen's NBC Orchestra and Buddy Rich's Big Band) have become standard repertoire in jazz studies programs at colleges and universities worldwide[citation needed]. In addition to numerous recordings as a sideman, Menza has recorded as a leader for Saba (1965) in Germany, Discwasher (1979), Realtime, Palo Alto (the latter two in 1981), and Verve (GRP).

Don Menza is the father of drummer Nick Menza, best known for his work in thrash metal band Megadeth.


In 2005 Don Menza was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.[2]


As leader[edit]

As composer and arranger[edit]

As sideman[edit]

  • Adventures In Time - Stan Kenton (1962) Label:Capitol Records
  • The Best of Buddy Rich [LIVE] - Buddy Rich (2006). Label: LRC Ltd. Contains Menza's composition, "Time Check."
  • The Best Of Buddy Rich: The Pacific Jazz Years - Buddy Rich. (1997) Label: Blue Note Records. Contains Menza's composition, "Groovin' Hard"
  • Mercy, Mercy - The Buddy Rich Big Band. Contains Menza's famous solo (the "Menza Cadenza") during "Channel One Suite"
  • Dallas Jazz Orchestra Plays Dee Barton (1994, Grammy nominated, 1996), Dallas Jazz Orchestra, featuring Don Menza
  • Dynamite "Live" at The Concord Jazz Festival (1980), 150 MPH (1974), Matterhorn (1978), Explosion (1975), East Side Suite (1989) - The Louie Bellson Orchestra
  • On Fire - Les Demerle with Bobby Shew and Lanny Morgan (1981)
  • "Live" At Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase - The Louie Bellson Quartet (1988)
  • "Live" At Claudio's - Pete Magadini (1991)
  • Lonely Place - Dan Terry Orchestra & Chorus (1969)
  • A View From Within - Frank Strazzeri (1973)
  • Frames - Frank Strazzeri (1974)
  • Bones Blues - Pete Magadini (1976)

With John Klemmer

With Carmen McRae

With Lalo Schifrin


  1. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Don Menza Biography". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved January 26, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Don Menza BMHOF Class of 2005". Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. Retrieved January 26, 2013. 

External links[edit]