Richie Zelon

General informations

BAND: Composer & Educator

Richie Zelon. (Guitarist, Composer, & Educator), was born in Lima, Peru of Brazilian and American parents. In Peru he recorded his first album, "Retrato en Blanco y Negro" (Portrait in Black & White) in 1982 for the Fonovox label.

The recording featured Zellon's unique compositions merging the percussive music of Peru's black population with jazz for the first time. Legendary American jazz musician, Jimmy Heath who met Zellon during one of his performances in Peru and was intrigued by his unique style, wrote the liner notes. After a brief period of classical composition studies with Edgar Valcarcel, at the time conductor of the Lima Symphony Orchestra, Zellon decided to pursue jazz studies at Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music. He also received private instruction from Pat Martino, Red Rodney and Charles Banacos. After leaving Boston, Zellon spent several years teaching privately and doing clinics at different music institutions throughout the US and Latin America. In 1995 he established Songosaurus Music, a record label devoted to the promotion of new Latin Jazz artists from all over the continent. He has recorded several CDs for the label of which have been critically acclaimed worldwide. They showcase a diversity of Latin rhythms covering not only the Brazilian and Afro Caribbean styles traditionally associated with the Latin Jazz genre, but also those pertaining to a variety of South American countries such as Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Uruguay and of course his native Peru.

He has performed in clubs and jazz festivals throughout the United States Latin America, Europe and Israel. In the years following his national recording debut with the Songosaurus label, he has spent most of his time as producer for dozens of Latin Jazz CD projects. He has recorded and/or performed in the company of such world-class artists as Paquito D' Rivera, Alex Acuña, Danilo Perez, David Liebman, Dave Samuels, Sam Rivers, Jerry Bergonzi, Abraham Laboriel, Justo Almario, Bob Moses, George Garzone, Manfredo Fest, Jeff Berlin and David Amram among others. In 1998 the first book to document the history of Latin Jazz, "El Diccionario de Latin Jazz" by Nat Chediak , devoted a chapter to Zellon's music. In 2000 a chapter in the French book also on Latin Jazz, "Caliente" by Luc Delannoy was also dedicated to Zellon's work. Delannoy entitled the chapter, "Richie Zellon: The Frank Zappa of Latin Jazz". In addition he is profiled in the book "Mixtura: jazz con sabor peruano" by Jorge Olazo as well as in "Cuban Fire: The Story of Salsa and Latin Jazz" and "Jazz Latino" by Isabelle Leymarie. Before making Miami his home in 2000 he spent a year as Professor of Jazz Guitar studies at the University of South Florida (Tampa, FL.) prior to which he was on the faculty at ARTI (Audio Recording Tech Institute) in Orlando for 2 consecutive years. He is currently active as Professor of Jazz Guitar Studies at Florida International University in Miami. In addition to being a BMI writer and publisher, Zellon also writes a regular column on Latin American music for "Jazz Improv" magazine, a national publication for musicians. For more info please visit

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