I got to spend some time with the great Don Menza tonight. It was very good. For those of you who don’t know of Don Menza, you need to sell your saxophone. Now!
01/24/2001 Updated a little more
Don Menza is a very gifted woodwind player who is probably most known for his stint with the Buddy Rich big band. But, Don Menza is deeper than that. Don is a very active in the music and teaching scene, and he is playing all over the world currently. In fact, he says he keeps a horn in the various locations he goes to rather than carrying a horn around….but that is another story.
Anyways, Don Menza had a stories about everything. I didn’t get to hear any of the famous Buddy Rich stories (or horror stories) because I got there a little late (maybe Rory could fill us in?). He retold a great story of seeing Charlie Parker playing live, with Strings. He said Charlie Parker’s sound was big, kinda like a tenor, and would fill the room. He said Charlie Parker’s play looked like he wasn’t play because his fingers were soo close to the keys. He also had a story of how Charlie Paker’s playing changed after playing 2nd Tenor in the Billy Eckstine band. He was playing second the Gene Ammons. Don insists that you can hear a trading of ideas between Gene and Charlie after that time.
Don Menza is insistant that the best saxophones ever made are Selmer Mark VI’s. He says that once Selmer stopped making them, they lost the art. Current saxophones being made have aspects of the Selmer Mark VI, but he says that nothing captures it.
Don is also insistant on mouthpieces. He doesn’t buy that “this mouthpiece will make me better” arguement. I remember seeing him in 1995 or 1994 at the IAJE in LA, and he did this demo of sounding the same on 3 different mouthpieces. The $500 special, the $100 middle of the roader, and the $5 special. It didn’t matter, he made them all the same. I think he now likes old Otto Links that he strips the rubber off of. We didn’t get into details about that.
Don’s also very passionate about his teaching. He’s very proud of a couple of student, especially this girl (and I can’t remember her name!). She was always something he’d talk about. He’s very proud of her.
I’ll probably remember something more later………
One thought on “Evening with Don Menza”
Don also told us that Gene Ammons nickname “Jug” came because he spent a lot of time in jail. Menza had mostly good things to say about his stint with Buddy Rich, and that his Channel One Suite solo kind of made a name for him like Stan Getz’s Early Autumn solo with Woody Herman and Coleman Hawkins’ Body and Soul Improvisation. He did say that he suggested to Buddy that he record the band live one time when Rich was yelling at Menza on stage about playing that great solo on Channel One every time, so Don responded “Why don’t you record the band live?” Then a couple weeks later Buddy told the band they would be recording “Live at Ceasar’s Palace.”