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Don Menza at a concert in Germany 2010
April 22, 1936 |
Buffalo, New York, United States
|Genres||Jazz, big band, fusion|
|Occupation(s)||Bandleader, saxophonist, arranger, educator, session musician|
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.
Educator and composer
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. 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).
In 2005 Don Menza was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.
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- Don Menza - Very Live at Groovy - (2008) Label: Artie Music . Personnel: Markku Johansson, Esko Linnavalli, Jesper Lundgaard, Esko Rosnell
- Burnin - (2002) Label: Real Time. Personnel: Chuck Findley, Ron King, Jack Nimitz, Don Rader, Bill Reichenbach Jr., Joe Romano, Frank Strazzeri, Bobby Shew and Frank Szabo.
- Menza Lines - The Don Menza Big Band. (2005) Label: Jazzed Media. Personnel: Don Menza: leader, tenor saxophone; Chuck Findley, Bobby Shew, Don Rader, Ron King, Frank Szabo: trumpet; Bill Reichenbach Jr., Alex Iles, Bob McChesney, John Hasselback: trombone; Lanny Morgan, Russ D'Alba, Doug Webb, Tom Peterson, Jack Nimitz: reeds; Mike Abene: piano; Chris Conner: bass; Mark Waggoner: guitar; Mike Stephans: drums
- Voyage - Don Menza & the SWR Big Band. (2007) Label: Hänssler Classic. Personnel: Don Menza (tenor saxophone), Don Rader, Claus Reichstaller, Felice Civitareale, Klaus Graf (saxophone), Klaus Wagenleiter (piano), Marc Godfroid (trombone), Andreas Maile, Axel Kuhn, Ian Cumming, Joe Gallardo, Karl Farrent, Rudolf Reindl (flugelhorn)
- Jack Rabbitt - Don Menza (sax), Bobby Jones (Hammond B3 Organ), John Bacon (Drums). Cadence Jazz Records 1184
- Hip Pocket - Menza (playing alto and baritone saxophones) with Sal Nistico and Sam Noto (1981)
- First Flight (Catalyst Records, with Frank Rosolino and Alan Broadbent (1977)
As composer and arranger
- Stan Kenton presents Gabe Baltazar (Creative World Records, 1979)
- 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
- Constant Throb (Impulse!, 1971)
With Lalo Schifrin
- Gypsies (Tabu, 1978)
- Review of "Menza Lines" CD at AllAboutJazz.com
- Don Menza bio at Verve Music Group website
- Review of "Menza Lines" CD at Allmusic
- Article: "Recommended Jazz Ensemble Repertoire," published in Jazz Education Journal, the official publication of the International Association for Jazz Education
- Jazz Improv Magazine website
- Don Menza listings on Ejazzlines.com