Not only has guitarist Neil Zaza helped to define the genre of melodic instrumental guitar, he has become a worldwide ambassador for the instrument itself. His melodic compositions have changed the way musicians play, and what audiences worldwide demand out of their guitar heroes.
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 among countless others. 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 Akron, 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 San Antonio producer/artist 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. With Staring at the Sun, Neil ushered in a new era that defined his vision in composition, melodic approach, and tone. This CD provided a gateway to the Neil Zaza we know today.
December 2001 saw the birth of a new holiday tradition for fans of instrumental rock. Neil unveiled One Silent Night…, an instrumental take on traditional Christmas songs that could be described as “Hendrix meets Beethoven under the Christmas tree”. These holiday concerts have become an annual tradition and are among the best selling holiday shows at the famed Playhouse Square theaters in Cleveland Ohio. The One Silent Night… shows have featured choirs and even a 60-piece symphony orchestra. Neil has released two studio CDs (One Silent Night… Volumes 1 & 2) of his unique take on holiday music as well as a double live CD (A Night at the Palace) capturing and documenting this groundbreaking holiday event.
2003 was a hugely successful year for Neil Zaza. In February he founded Melodik Records, which is based out of his hometown of Akron, 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 over 15,000. Performing overseas is nothing new. Zaza, one of the hottest guitar acts overseas has also become one of the guitar world’s most sought-after educators 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 to name a few.
Guitar manufactures around the globe regularly approach Neil for endorsements on signature guitars. 2004 saw the release of the Cort Neil Zaza NZS-1 signature model. Guitar fans quickly snatched up the signature models and it went on to be one of Cort’s best selling models of all time. This was followed up shortly after with a newer model (NZS-2). In 2011, Neil signed on with Carvin Guitars and was pivotal in bringing a new 24 fret carved top guitar to market.
Neil Zaza is a frequent guest at the prestigious Winter NAMM Convention and a regular on the guitar clinic circuit around the world. Neil 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.
Neil’s latest CD is 212 which was released on February 12, 2011. 212 holds a special place for Neil as it represents a magical number for him. For years, the number 212 keeps popping up in places where Neil plays, lives and travels. Numerology aside, 212 takes Neil’s playing to new levels by demonstrating his ability to write songs that combine his highly advanced technical prowess and accurate speed with strong melodic hooks and unforgettable melodies. This combination is deadly and sure to set the watermark for how expressive and emotive a guitarist can be.
“It’s always been about the song for me”, states Neil. “I remember all the tunes that really moved me when I was growing up and it wasn’t about the guitarist playing 128th notes. It was about an inexplicable connection I felt drawing me to wear out my records as I couldn’t get enough of that rush of the song itself! That’s what I try and do with my music today and 212 in specific. It’s always about the song!”
With the new 212 CD now released worldwide, Neil is preparing to bring his unique and innovative style of melodic guitar playing to even great audiences worldwide. To see the global impact that Neil has made with his playing, tune into YouTube and see what over 1.6 million fans have witnessed on his video of him performing his hit “I’m Alright”. The combination is deadly and sure to set the watermark for how expressive and emotive a guitarist can be.