Los Angeles’s Don Menza with Buffalo’s Sam Noto

Don Menza (Los Angeles) – Sax

Sam Noto (Buffalo, NY) – Trumpet

Mark Eisenman – Piano

Neil Swainson – Bass

Bob McLaren – Drums

Don Menza bio:

Don Menza is a powerful tenor saxophonist who, although able to effectively imitate most of the top stylists (from Coleman Hawkins to John Coltrane), has a distinctive sound of his own. Menza started playing tenor when he was 13. After getting out of the Army, he was with Maynard Ferguson’s Orchestra (1960-1962) as both a soloist and an arranger.

A short stint with Stan Kenton and a year leading a quintet in Buffalo preceded a period living in Germany (1964-1968). After returning to the U.S., he was with Buddy Rich’s big band in 1968, recording a famous solo on ‘Channel One Suite’ that utilized circular breathing and was quite classic.

He settled in California and has worked with Elvin Jones (1969), Louie Bellson, as an educator, and in the studios. Don Menza, who has made far too few records, recorded as a leader for Saba (1965) in Germany, Discwasher (1979), Realtime, and Palo Alto (the latter two in 1981). Long time member of The Tonight Show Band, with Johnny Carson.

Sam Noto bio:

SAM NOTO (trumpeter, flugelhornist) was born on April 17, 1930 in Buffalo, New York, U.S.A. Reputed as an excellent bop soloist, Noto has worked throughout North America with some of the biggest names and best bands in jazz, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Red Rodney, Don Menza, Joe Romano, Larry Cavelli, Louie Bellson, Kenny Shroyer, Frank Rossolino, Ed Leddy, Archie LeCoQue, Kent Larsen, Joe ‘Red’ Kelly, Phil Gilbert, Pearl Bailey, Bob Fitzpatrick, Bill Catalano, Jim Amlotte, Anita O’Day, Lennie Niehaus, Bud Shank, Bill Perkins, Rob McConnell, Mel Lewis, Stan Kenton, and Richie Kamuca.

Noto’s only formal training on the trumpet was in grade school, but he became so proficient that he was invited to join Stan Kenton’s band as lead trumpet player while still in his early 20s. He played with Kenton full-time until 1958, and again in 1960 after a year-long stint touring Europe with Louie Bellson and Pearl Bailey in 1959. He was also a member of the Count Basie Orchestra for two separate periods between 1964 and 1967. He worked primarily in Las Vegas after 1969 until relocating to Toronto in 1975. It was while living and working in Vegas he became acquainted with trumpeter Red Rodney who was influential in Noto’s prolific recording career with Xanadu.

While living in Toronto, Sam Noto quickly became a first-call studio player, and was a member of Rob McConnell’s The Boss Brass for a number of years in the ’80s. He also established his own successful groups including the Sam Noto Quintet, performing frequently on bandstands and concert stages throughout Toronto in the ’90s and early 2000s. Now living in Fort Erie, Ontario, he continues to play in and around the Toronto area, as well as closer to home in Buffalo, New York jazz clubs.

Mark Eisenman bio:

Mark Eisenman is one among a handful of the top ‘in-demand’ jazz pianists in Toronto. Born in New York City but based in Toronto since 1972, Mark started studying the piano with his father. By the age of eighteen he had resolved that he would be pursuing the piano as a career interest. He entered into the music program at York University and after a short time discovered jazz music. With his introduction to this idiom his musical interest peaked.
Under the tutelage of John Gittins and others Mark ultimately took a degree in Fine Arts, and as testimony to his continuing dedication to the learning process, currently conducts jazz workshops at York as a part-time faculty member. His teaching has expanded to include ‘The Jazz Camp’, classes at Mohawk College in Hamilton plus private teaching in his home studio.
Mark has performed and toured with numerous eminent jazz artists including the following: Blue Mitchell, Woody Shaw, Nat Adderley, Ed Bickert, Rob McConnell, Sam Noto and Pat LaBarbera. He is heard frequently on the radio, including regular appearances on CBC’s Sunday Edition with Michael Enright, and is well represented on recordings. His most recent CD ‘Sweet and Lovely’ features legendary drummer Jimmy Cobb and bassist Pat Collins.
In addition to being a pianist of great clarity and discipline, Mark has been developing his compositional skills. His tunes appear on recordings by a variety of groups.
‘His professional status is based largely on his skill and versatility as an ensemble player, but what marks him most is an ability to produce, no matter what the musical company, distinctive well-structured solos’ (Toronto Star).
In Mark’s own words, what is most rewarding to him as a performer is the sense that ‘…everyone is having a good time because that means the music is good’. With an outlook such as this, it should come as no surprise that he frequently works Toronto’s major jazz spots. He is a skillful soloist, a versatile ensemble player and a thoughtful and sensitive accompanist. In 1999 Mark received The Jazz Report Award for ‘Acoustic Pianist of the Year’. 

Neil Swainson bio:

NEIL SWAINSON (bassist) was born on November 15, 1955 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. He began playing professionally there, backing visiting musicians including Herb Ellis, Sonny Stitt, and Barney Kessell. He started working with Paul Horn in 1975 and led his own band for a two-year period before relocating to Vancouver in 1976. He has lived and worked in Toronto since 1977.

Swainson has been a leading player on the Toronto jazz scene ever since, playing with local and visiting luminaries including Moe Koffman, Rob McConnell, Ed Bickert, James Moody, George Coleman, Jay McShann, Tommy Flanagan, Lee Konitz, Joe Farrell, Slide Hampton, and Woody Shaw. He worked with Woody Shaw internationally, too, frequently in New York and on several European tours. He has appeared on two Woody Shaw recordings: Solid (Muse 5329) and In My Own Sweet Way (In & Out 7003).

In 1986 Swainson began working with George Shearing, a relationship that continues today. Together, they have worked with many other great artists including Mel Tormé, Joe Williams, Nancy Wilson, Robert Farnon, and Diana Krall. They have travelled worldwide, playing in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Europe, Great Britain, and all across North America. He has made numerous recordings with Shearing, including: Dexterity (Concord Jazz 4346), Mel & George ‘do’ World War II (Concord Jazz 4471), A Perfect Match (with Ernestine Anderson, Concord Jazz 4357), I Hear a Rhapsody (Telarc 83310), Walkin’ (Telarc 83333), How Beautiful is Night (with Robert Farnon, Telarc 83325), Paper Moon (Telarc 83375), That Shearing Sound (Telarc 83347), and Joe Williams: A Song Is Born (View Video).

Swainson’s own recording, 49th Parallell (Concord Jazz 4396), features Woody Shaw on trumpet, and Joe Henderson on saxophone. He has also recorded with a number of other great artists including Jay McShann, Doc Cheatham, Geoff Keezer, Sam Noto, Peter Leitch, Pat LaBarbera, Kevin Dean, Rob McConnell, Ed Bickert, Lorne Lofsky, Kirk MacDonald; and JMOG, a cooperative band featuring Don Thompson, Pat LaBarbera, and Joe LaBarbera.

He has recorded with pianist Gene DiNovi: So In Love (Marshmallow MYCJ30118) and Golden Earrings (Marshmallow MYCJ30185). He recently toured Japan with DiNovi and recorded Smile (Five Stars Records FSY-501) and Gene DiNovi at Red Brick Warehouse Live in Yokohama (Marshmallow MMEX-103). More recently, he has been touring internationally with singer Roberta Gambarini.

Neil Swainson continues to compose music and freelance extensively in the Toronto area.


Five recordings on which Neil Swainson plays have won Canada’s JUNO Award:
Jon Ballantyne’s Skydance (Justin Time 30-2);
P.J. Perry’s My Ideal (Unity 128);
Free Trade. a cooperative band featuring Renee Rosnes (Justin Time 64-2);
Kirk MacDonald’s The Atlantic Sessions (Koch 8600);
Pat LaBarbera’s Deep in a Dream (Radioland 10015).

Bob McLaren bio:

BOB McLAREN (drummer, percussionist) was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. As a youngster, he played guitar, but began developing his distinctive jazz drumming style early on, ultimately becoming an important influence on the Canadian music scene. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree from McMaster University, and as a teacher, he has conducted and clinics and workshops at colleges and universities all over Canada. He has taught at the Banff School of Fine Arts, and is currently on the faculties of the Jazz Studies programs at both the University of Toronto and Humber College.

McLaren’s musical career has included countless live and recorded engagements, comprising major TV shows, more than 2000 jingles for broadcast; themes and soundtracks for film, radio, and television; record releases; and concert tours. He has played in most of the major Canadian jazz clubs and festivals as well as several outside of his home country including Norway, Cuba, and Bermuda. He has played with many of Canadian jazz greats including Lennie Breau, Moe Koffman, Ed Bickert, Peter Appleyard, Rick Wilkins, and was a member of Doug Riley’s Doctor Music for many years. He has worked and recorded with Sam Noto, Kirk MacDonald, Harold Maybern, Charles MacPherson, Clifford Jordan, Pat LaBarbera, Mulgrew Miller, Lorne Lofsky, and played with international jazz stars including Eddie Daniels, Zoot Sims, George Coleman, Tom Harrell, and Randy Brecker.

Bob McLaren was the featured drummer in a total of 19 separate ‘Sound of Toronto Jazz’ Concerts between 1979 and the year 2000. including one presentation as leader of his own Bob McLaren Quintet on January 15, 1996.