Zito, Ronnie

New York, NY

 

Ronald Zito is best known as the exclusive drummer of singer Bobby Darin for four years, a connection which certainly didn't hinder his efforts to become a first-call session drummer. But he also had a career as a jazz musician and worked with some heavy players in this field including tenor saxophonist J.R. Monterose and bandleader Woody Herman. Zito came from a musical family which includes his brother Torrie Zito, a composer. His early musical experiences were in their family band. Jazz enthralled him, and at the eye of this hurricane of interest were the master drummers Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, and Billy Higgins, and it was absorbing the mastery of touch and detail that helped Zito become such a tasteful drummer in every setting. Indeed, Zito's work behind Darin on the '60s release Darin at the Copa compares favorably with the standard set by Jones on his recordings with Johnny Hartman. Zito was still a teenager when he gigged with Monterose, a hard-driving and influential hard bop tenor saxophonist who later played with Charles Mingus. Catching the Darin gig shortly thereafter was a lucky break for a man just entering his twenties, as well. Zito continued playing jazz during this period, especially as a member of trombonist Frank Rosolino's combo in 1961. He jumped ship to another vocalist in 1962, going on tour with the sultry and talented composer and singer Peggy Lee. He was based out of Brooklyn through the '60s, drumming behind the Herman big band for two years beginning in 1965. During this time he began to build a reputation as a studio drummer among an elite group of artists. His recording credits in the ensuing decades reveal an extremely wide range of abilities. He has collaborated with some of the best classical artists when they take on pop or swing projects, including the Canadian Brass and flautist James Galway. Zito has recorded in the '70s and '80s with memorable pop vocalists such as Cher, Roberta Flack, K.T. Sullivan, and Eartha Kitt. He also seems in demand in the musical world inhabited by the likes of Barry Manilow and Tony Mottola and by projects such as Rosie O'Donnell's Rosie Christmas. He met the comedian during the filming of A League of Our Own, for which conductor Hans Zimmer tapped Zito to play on the soundtrack. He also plays on Broadway and was part of the pit band for the show Chicago. Of course, he always keeps his arms limber enough for swinging, continuing to play jazz in the combos of organist Jimmy McGriff and trumpeters Marvin Stamm and Ruby Braff.

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