Don Menza not only brought spectacular jazz to the Buffalo area for two nights at PAUSA Art House, he brought with him the treasures of jazz history. His comedic personality had also an educator’s element. Regaling us with stories of his days with Henry Mancini and why certain songs had meaning to him. Friday night was a show indeed. Even down to looking for music charts as well as his challenging urging on of the fantastic line up, which accompanied him to make up a quintet.
Friday’s performance began with two Don Menza originals. Including an infectious melodic tune called Cream Puff, in which Menza explained had to do with a charming woman who caught the eye of one his big band members from his days in Las Vegas. A highlight of the first set Friday night was the Henry Mancini ballad “I Like The Look”. What actually occurred was far from a ballad. Menza arranged the song into a rousing bebop tune, which allowed Menza and the band to take off on improvisational runs. Here is a clip, not the best quality, but does show the musical genius of Don Menza on the Henry Mancini tune "Charade":
Perhaps, the highlight of Friday night’s concert was Don Menza’s story of his days in Sweden, love for classical music, and special mention of a Stan Getz tune called “Voyage”. Menza played brilliantly and John Hasselback on trombone had a mesmerizing solo while John Bacon was a driving force on drums. Here is the actual Stan Getz performance in Copenhagen with the great Kenny Barron, who composed the tune:
The band's musical talents were on display on the tune “Body and Soul”. Danny Ziemann solo expanded the song to new areas while Bobby Jones on piano gave us one of the most memorable solos we will hear this year and for a long time. Menza's performance on this song was spectacular and afterwards gave the audience a demonstration of how Coleman Hawkins played the tune with a different breathing technique. And, then showed us how the forceful tenor of Sonny Rollins gave the song a different sound. Here are a couple of videos showing the superb solo talents of John Hasselback and the improvisational talent of Danny Ziemann:
Menza's appearance gave the Buffalo area a taste of legendary jazz artistry as he covered his days from Maynard Ferguson, 27 years with Henry Mancini, and his knowledge of the story of jazz. Kudos to PAUSA Art House for making this event possible and allowing Buffalo to welcome Don Menza to his native home town. Let’s hope for another return next summer – or sooner of one of Buffalo’s most favorite sons!
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