Reference: FSRCD 891
Bar code: 8427328608916
Don Menza was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, where he began playing tenor saxophone when he was 13. After serving in the U.S. Army, he worked with Maynard Ferguson’s Orchestra (1960–1962) as a soloist and an arranger. A short time with Stan Kenton and a year leading a quintet in Buffalo preceded a period living in Germany (1964–68).
“Coming to California in 1968 was a cultural shock for me,” he remembers. “I had just left Germany where I had the security of a steady job with the now legendary Max Greger TV Orchestra.” But there were consolations. “Los Angeles was home to one of my very favorite trombone players—Frank Rosolino,” he explains. “For over 10 years we played gigs together on the West Coast and he always amazed me with his lyricism and incredible facility on what some people regard as a ‘cumbersome’ instrument. We toured Europe with Supersax and played a memorable week-long gig at the “Domicile” in Munich at the end of that tour. These recordings are the results of those times together. Thank you Frank, for your musicianship and enthusiasm, you are sorely missed...”
In a career that also included spells in Buddy Rich’s 1968 big band (recording the famous solo cadenza on “Channel One Suite” live at Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas which is now regarded as a classic), and in the bands of Elvin Jones and Louie Bellson, Don Menza still looks back on his times with Frank Rosolino with particular pride and affection.
"The 1970s were a good time to fall in love with jazz. When I was just starting to get into America’s Classical Music, you had fertile jazz ground. The studios were packed with jazzers making a good living, while at night they hung around a ton of clubs like Donte’s, The Baked Potato, Pasquale’s, Carmelos, The Lighthouse and Concerts By The Sea. Each place had a “2.50 night” for students, and you could see guys like Elvin Jones and Kenny Burrell, and LA bands like Supersax and The Akiyoshi-Tabackin Big Band were always playing somewhere, even at times for free at the Ford Amphitheatre. Not only that, but Gerald Wilson taught “Jazz History” at CSUN!! Where did these glory days go?!?
Here, we’ve got a 2-CD set that recall these glory days. The beefy toned tenor saxist Don Menza, who was in bands ranging from Louie Bellson, Buddy Rich and Elvin Jones and was in a bunch of TV studio bands as well. Here, he teams up with Angelenos Frank Rosolino/tb, Alan Broadbent/p-synth, Tom Azarello/b and Nick Ceroli/dr as well as some cameo appearances.
If you want some reminder of what a muscular tenor is supposed to sound like, just hold on to your rail and listen to pieces like “Collage” or “Bones Blues.” Then, the rhythm team bears down along with the leader for a high octane “Groove Blues” while on soprano he teams together with Rosolino for a richly lyrical “Mz. Liz.” LA local Frank Strazzeri pops in for an irresistibly gorgeous “Ballad of the Matador” while Menza shows his softer hands on a lovely aria of “Magnolia Rose”; when did guys stop playing like this? He makes it sound so easy, and he’s still performing, so go see him and have him sign this well documented booklet. An overlooked gem!"
George W. Harris (May 30, 2016)