James Zito
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James Zito

Orlando, Florida, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2021

Orlando, Florida, United States
Established on Jan, 2021
Band Jazz Blues




"Featured Profile: The Natural - He's young but James Zito can play with the pros"

Sporting a crisp Mock suit, black tie and back spectacles. James Zito could have passed as the peach-fuzzed version of Tommy Lee Jones' Agent K from Men in Black. only Zito was wielding a jazz-producing ibanez GB40 guitar instead of an amnesia, inducing neuralyzer. When his time came to star on "Teri," trumpeter Gerald Wilson's requiem to a daughter lost to cancer, Zito summoned his inner Wes Montgomery. In concert with his Dr. Phillips Center Jazz Orchestra bandrmates, the young man in black delivered a haunting elegy that the audience in the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater wouldn't soon forget. Yet, with his preternatural jazz chops, it's easy to forget that only two years ago Zito was a teenage summer camper. learning at the feet of bassist Rodney Whitaker at the arts center's Jazz Music Intensive Week_ Two years later the native Orlandean is the guitarist and youngest player in the world-class fan orchestra that Whitaker now leads. Heady stuff for a 21-year old, who, in some ways, isn't far removed from the 7-year old whose guitar love affair began at a Toys R Us during a family road trip. Among the aisles, the youngster spotted a $50 Fist Act guitar that he just had to have." After some begging and some sisterly lobbying, the instrument was his. "I've been infatu-ated with the guitar ever since." says Zito. That passion for music comes honestly. His parents are self-taught musicians, and his grandfather played the six-string banjo. Yet. while grandpa's musical tastes leaned a little bit country, Zito was more than a little bit rock 'n roll. Early note-perfect takes on Guns 'N' Roses' -Sweet Child O' Mine" suggested Zito stepping into rock guitarist Slash's boots: not into guitarist Django Reinhardt's monk straps.
"i was a rock guitarist at heart," he says. That changed in high school, at the Osceola County School for the Arts. Listening to piano virtuoso Oscar Peterson cracked the jazz code. "it really spoke to my soul", says Zito, a super-achiever who also reached Eagle Scout status, Yet, Zito's high school jazz band director. Miguel Alvarado, proved the most important catalyst. He recognized Zito's potential and "took me under his wing and guided me on the path I was looking for", That path — with the encouragement of his parents — led to a tryout for the new forming Dr. Philips Center Jazz Orchestra. "We weren't expecting much," Zito says. "So we decided it would be worth it to throw my hat in the ring and see what came of it." What came of it was astornhment. "James has great potential to be one of the best," Whitaker says, noting how the young man outplayed more experienced professionals. "He can swing, he's very soulful and was very prepared for the audition, He has a promising future". Age is nothing but a number when you can play with the maturity of Zito, who's currently studying in New York at the Manhattan School of Music. Still, despite his world-wise tone and precocious embrace of swing and blues, some-times that 7-year-old Toys R Us kid still resurfaces. In his off moments during Ellington for Lovers, Zito sat digging the other performers, his head seesawing to the beat — a young man enraptured in Christmas morning glee at where his toy-store infatuation with a $50 guitar had taken him. "No one forced me to do music,- Zito says. "The music found me, and I had no choice but to lose myself in it." 111 Darryl E. Owens
FALL 2017 I ArtsLife - Artslife Magazine


Still working on that hot first release.



New York guitarist James Zito’s masterful touch and soulful melodies inspired Artslife Magazine to dub him “The Natural” a reference to Robert Redford’s starring take as the new baseball phenom Roy Hobbs. Born in Orlando, Florida, he is admired both for his authentic approach inspired by Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian and Rodney Jones and his commitment to his personal, unique voice in Jazz. 

Renowned conservatory Manhattan School of Music awarded Zito a scholarship and sparked his move to New York City. He has performed at Jazz At Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, and the Caramoor Jazz Festival, along with many of the city’s top venues.  Zito also draws upon his childhood influence of Rock and Gospel music, and his skill as a composer and arranger to engage with the versatile musical landscape in the City.  

Zito is currently in-residence at Michigan State University as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Recent achievements include First Place in the Wilson Center International Guitar Competition and Special Prize at the Jarek Smietana International Guitar Competition in Krakow, Poland. He was awarded the guitar chair for the Dr. Phillips Jazz Orchestra directed by esteemed bassist and educator Rodney Whitaker. Other collaborations include performances with Wycliffe Gordon, Michael Dease, Joy Brown, Leon Anderson, Rodney Whitaker, Dick Oatts, Chad Lefkowitz Brown, Adam Nussbaum, Terell Stafford, Kenny Washington, among many others. In 2019 he was named a “Geri Allen Fellow” of the Gathering Orchestra, an All-Star ensemble with residency in Detroit.  In 2020, Zito became an Endorsing Artist for Benedetto Guitars, a leading manufacturer of custom handmade guitars.

James Zito is a dedicated music educator and has taught Jazz and Guitar at The Dr. Phillips Jazz Intensive, Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, The Orlando Jazz Workshop, South Hampton Summer Jazz camp, Michigan State University, and many more.  He is currently working on his first project as a leader.  

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