The Buffalo News Summer Jazz Series: Tenor Saxophonist Don Menza

  • The Buffalo News Summer Jazz Series: Tenor Saxophonist Don Menza

Event Category: Live Music and Music & Nightlife

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  • Don Menza is a powerful tenor saxophonist with a dynamic and distinctive sound. Born in Buffalo in 1936, Menza started playing tenor saxophone when he was 13. After serving in the Army, he performed with Maynard Ferguson’s Orchestra (1960–1962) as a soloist and an arranger. Menza had a short tenure with Stan Kenton prior to moving to Germany in 1964. In 1968 he returned to the U.S. and joined Buddy Rich’s big band in the “jazz tenor” chair, recording the famous solo cadenza on “Channel 1 Suite” (recorded live at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas) that utilized circular breathing and is referred to as a “classic” among music educators and colleagues. Menza settled in California where he continued his craft as a performer and educator, working with Elvin Jones (1969) and Louie Bellson. Menza played a leading role in recording with Saba (1965) in Germany, Discwasher (1979), Realtime, and Palo Alto (1981). He was also a long-time member of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show Band. 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 programs at colleges and universities worldwide. In 2005, Don Menza was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame.

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