Born in Buffalo, New York on April 22 1936, he studied saxophone in high school and also at State University in Fredonia. He is self taught as a composer-arranger, and plays tenor, alto,clarinet and flutes.
Whilst in Stuttgart, Germany in 1956 he played with the 7th Army band that included Don Ellis, Leo Wright, Eddie Harris, Cedar Walton and Lanny Morgan.After his discharge he joined the Al Belletto sextet and then in 1960 toured with Maynard Ferguson, led a quintet with Sam Noto in Buffalo 1962/63 and then moved to Munich to work with Max Greger's TV band.
Returning to the U.S. in 1968 he joined the Buddy Rich band, (the saxophone section at the "Ceasar's Palace" engagement in July of that year comprised of Charles Owens, Art Pepper, Pat LaBarbera, John Laws and Don).
After leaving Rich he settled in L.A. and became very active playing in bands for three major TV networks and many recording companies, as well as jingles. Featured soloist in movies such as "Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 and Play Misty for Me".
Aquired some freelance work with several big bands including Louis Bellson with whom he recorded, and whose band performed many of his original compositions.
Don Menza is a hard driving soloist, strongly influenced by Sonny Rollins, his compositions are obviously inspired by Bill Holman, Oliver Nelson and Al Cohn.
|Recommended recordings:||"Burnin'" |
Don Menza's Big Band
|Real Time RT-3001|
|"Big Band Explosion" |
with Louis Bellson
|"The Complete Roulette Recordings" |
with Maynard Ferguson
|"Bones Blues" |
|"Morning Song"||Saba SB 15066|