Neil Zaza biography
With fiery technical brilliance and breathtaking musical interpretation, Neil Zaza has defined himself as the instrumental guitarist with an unparalleled ability to combine solid, catchy songwriting with a keen melodic sense and technical fury. From his virtuoso rock solos, to laying a funk groove, to demonstrating his classical prowess by performing Bach and Mozart compositions, Zaza's extreme versatility has been showcased worldwide in concerts, clinics, festivals, as well as on his own solo instrumental albums. Zaza has shared the bill with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Dweezil Zappa, Steve & Mike Porcaro (Toto), Yngwie Malmsteen, Vinnie Moore, and Andy Summers. He has performed on albums by Dweezil Zappa, Eric Carmen, Michael Stanley and also supplied guitar tracks for a Stewart Copeland-produced movie soundtrack.
It all began... in Northfield Center, Ohio, where Neil Zaza was born, and still resides. Zaza started playing guitar at the age of 10 and went on to study classical guitar at The University of Akron under renowned educator and performer Stephen Aron. Zaza began to teach guitar, and in 1987 he formed the rock band Zaza, which quickly became one of the hottest U.S. touring bands at that time. After a successful run and even a hit song “Maybe Tomorrow”, the band disbanded and a brilliant solo career began…
In 1992, Zaza released his first solo album, Two Hands, One Heart. The world of instrumental music would never be the same again. Critics hailed the album and guitar players instantly had a new hero. There was a clearly unique voice in the music, one only beginning to define itself.
Two Hands, One Heart was followed-up by Thrills and Chills in 1993, recorded with famed Producer Michael Morales. Later that year, Zaza was as a guest soloist with The Hartford Symphony Orchestra, performing “1492” and a guitar interpretation of “West Side Story.” In 1996 he was a featured performer at the Montreal Guitar Festival.
Sing, Zaza’s third album, was released in 1997. Sing launched Zaza into super-stardom in the instrumental world with the monster hit “I’m Alright.” It remains one of the most popular and challenging songs for guitarists to learn, and continues to influence new generations of players. There are even ring tones and dance-mix versions of the song in Asia.
This proved to only be the beginning. Zaza’s fourth album, Staring at The Sun, which featured Ross Valory, Steve Smith and Stuart Hamm, was a masterpiece of melodic instrumental rock. It’s blazing fast solos, rich melodies and soulful ballads, including a stunning cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”, wowed fans, impressed critics and permanently launched Neil Zaza into the upper elite of guitar virtuosos. The release of this album proved to be a defining moment in his career.
During MP3.com’s initial foray into digital music distribution, Zaza made his catalog available to visitors and immediately reached the coveted #1 spot on both Instrumental Rock and Guitar Rock charts with only four songs.
A project of many years, One Silent Night, an instrumental take on traditional Christmas songs, was unveiled to the public in December, 2002 in the form of two volumes of music and a brand new show, “Neil Zaza’s One Silent Night…” The show was at the famed Palace Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio with the backing of a 60-piece symphony orchestra. That night saw the birth of a new holiday tradition.
2003 was a hugely successful year for Neil Zaza. In February he founded Melodik Records, which is based out of his hometown of Northfield Center, Ohio. Later that year Zaza garnered a headlining spot at the revered Busan International Rock Festival in South Korea. Zaza stunned the capacity crowd of 15,000. Performing overseas is nothing new. Zaza has become one of the guitar world’s most sought-after clinicians and now maintains a worldwide year-round clinic tour schedule. Recent tours have traveled to China, Taiwan, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Poland and Italy.
In 2004, Cort Guitars approached Zaza to develop his own signature guitar. In October of that year, after many months of discussions, design and prototypes, the six-stringed masterpiece, the NZS-1, was unveiled at the Asian Messe show. A 4 week tour of Asia followed. 2,000 units of the NZS-1 have already been sold.
Zaza was invited to the prestigious Winter NAMM Convention in Anaheim, California in 2005. NAMM represents more than 9,000 retailers and manufacturers of musical instruments and products from 85 countries worldwide. Over 4 days, 20 appearances were made including one at The Dean Markley Jam in the Galaxy Theatre, the climax of the convention. The All-star jam also featured George Lynch, Nuno Bettencourt, T.M. Stevens, and Van Halen’s Michael Anthony, but it was Zaza’s star that shone the brightest.
Zaza once again conquered Asia in April of 2005, this time as a member of a supergroup with bassist T.M. Stevens (Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, James Brown) and drummer Garry “GMan” Sullivan. The band toured the countries of China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Korea, seeing capacity crowds of 15,000-30,000. The performances were so explosive that the band was frequently told to “back off” by authorities, as the feverish excitement of the fans reached chaotic levels.
December saw the third installment of Zaza’s holiday show “One Silent Night” at the Allen Theatre in Cleveland. Another capacity crowd experienced what proved to be the most explosive yet of the shows. New additions to the show like an acoustic medley and a brand new introduction piece were highlights of the evening.
Neil Zaza has been featured in a variety of international guitar publications over the years and even garnered the cover of such magazines as Music Music, Guitar Fan, Guitar Shop, Modern Player and Poland’s Guitar & Bass, as well as technical music disciplines Home Recording, Musician, EQ, and Electronic Musician. Numerous readers’ polls have also been won for "Best Guitarist” in worldwide publications. Locally, the coveted Best Guitarist Award was won at The Free Times Music Awards in both 2005 & 2006.
Current projects in 2006 include collaborations with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, The Singing Angels and Cleveland’s Authentic Films, whose recent project, which had a musical score written by Zaza, received 4 awards at the Cleveland ADDY Award Competition. Zaza’s eighth album of original material, When Gravity Fails, is also close to completion. This highly-anticipated album will feature Peter Frampton, Ross Valory, Steve Smith, Edgar Winter, Jordan Rudess and Roger Joseph Manning Jr. It will also have an appearance by Michael Anthony, who is making his first-ever contribution to a project outside of Van Halen. 2006 will also see the release of a Neil Zaza Signature-Line effects pedal by Keeley Electronics, “The Lead Singer.”