DON MESSINA met Lennie Tristano in 1973. Since then he has been a devoted student and fan of Lennie’s music, as well as the beautiful music of Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Billie Holiday, Sal Mosca, Bud Powell, Fats Navarro, Warne Marsh, Lee Konitz, Oscar Pettiford, Jimmy Blanton, Charlie Christian, and Kenny Clarke. He spent 14 years studying improvisation with Fred Amend. Most of the musicians that Don plays with today he met while studying and playing with Amend (a swinging, tenor player with a beautiful sound with a wonderful melodic line and an exceptional teacher. Fred, at that time, was a student of Mosca's). Fred helped Don understand the concept of an improvised bass line, soloing, accompanying, plus he shared his affinity for the great players of jazz. During those years Don was introduced to the music of Sal Mosca. Listening to Sal, and then eventually sessioning and performing with Sal changed every aspect of Don's appreciation for all music. Sal's music, and his carefully measured words gave Don a much deeper understanding of the concept of an improvised and melodic line; the importance of steady time; and how to use the colorful palette of harmony, as well as tools necessary to develop and become your own player.
Don has been part of many rhythm sections with Bill Chattin (Drums). Don and Bill have been playing together since the mid-1980s and spent over 20 years as part of the Bluth Messina Chattin Trio. Most recently, Don and Bill have recorded two CDs with pianist Sal Mosca (as a trio and quartet with Jimmy Halperin), CDs with the Kazzrie Jaxen Quartet, Rick Moore Trio and Quartet, two trio releases with pianist Jon Easton, Ted Brown Quartet, and Jimmy Halperin Trio.
Don has CDs with Jimmy Halperin and Jon Easton on Cadence Jazz Records, as well an independent releases with the Jon Easton Trio, Rick Moore Trio/Quartet, and three CDs with guitarist Ron Naldi. On Zinnia Records as part of the Bluth Messina Chattin Trio he has three CDs. Their recordings have been awarded four-stars by Chris Albertson in Stereo Review; selected as “one of the best Jazz CDs of 1999” by Bob Blumenthal of the Boston Globe; received the 2000 IAJE Blue Chip Award for Outstanding Jazz Recording by Herb Wong; and given 4-1/2 stars by the All-Music Guide.
Besides being part of The Kazzrie Jaxen Trio or Quartet, Don sessions and/or performs with Jimmy Halperin, Jon Easton, Peter Prisco, Ted Brown, Rick Moore, Chris Aiello, Charley Krachy, Will Jhun, Skip Scott, and others. Don has also performed with Phil Woods, Stanley Turrentine, Joris Roelsof, and Vassar Clemens. He has recorded for Blue Jack Jazz, Cadence, Zinnia, Flying Fish, and other independent labels.
Don is waiting the release of future recordings with the Jimmy Halperin Trio, the Kazzrie Jaxen Trio, Peter Prisco, and duets and trios with Chris Aiello.
In partnership with the Mosca family, Don produced two Sal Mosca CD collections in 2015 (solo piano concerts). One is a double CD on Sunnyside Records from 1992; the other a five-CD set from 1981 on Cadence Jazz Records, both are from the Netherlands. Don is also the executor of the Sal Mosca's Archives residing at Rutgers University's Institute of Jazz Studies, Newark, NJ.
Don considers both Sal Mosca and Lennie Tristano as his jazz mentors. He has a deep love for the bass playing of Oscar Pettiford, Jimmy Blanton, Vinnie Burke, Walter Page, Scott LaFaro, Sonny Dallas, Red Mitchell, Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen, Ray Brown, Paul Chambers, Lou Stelluti, and Dave Holland.