Singer, Songwriter, Composer and Producer James Zavaleta from LA is no stranger to working with high-calibre artists. In 2009 after working with Timbales maestro, Orestes Vilato, on his debut album ‘It’s about Time’, they were nominated for a Latin Grammy Award; “This was a major highlight in my musical career.” James recalls and things didn’t just stop there.
James has played percussion and sung backing vocals for a wealth of respected Latin artists, including the Latin Grammy Award winners, Victor Manuelle, Albita, Tito Nieves and Grammy nominee Eddie Santiago.
The multi-talented half Mexican, half Salvadorian singer has come a long way since he first picked up a pair of drumsticks at the age of 3, “My musical journey started when I was just 3 years old. Professionally I started working in music when I was just 15 years old, but played drums since 3…” James recalls. “Music was, and has always been, very comforting to me. I fell in love with Salsa music when I was about 8 years old whilst living in El Salvador. That led to me learning to play the Timbales, Bongo’s and other percussion instruments. Then when I was 13, my father took me to a Marc Anthony concert and after seeing how he connected with the audience and how much he could get out of them, my life was changed! That’s when I started singing!”
It wasn’t until the age of 17 that James decided to master the art of piano playing. “Some would say that was a bit late to start on the piano but I believe that my love for it was so strong that I learned quickly and was able to develop the skills I needed to start composing and producing pieces. I remember watching the ‘The Jamie Foxx Show’ and every time I watched him sing and play, I thought it was amazing.”
In 2009, while working with LA Salsa band – ‘Los Duenos Del Son’ – they were invited to play the role of a salsa band in Eddie Murphy film, Meet Dave. Following this James was offered a part in the award winning Fox show, Prison Break – The Final Break. There you see James singing along with a band on the beach, in the wedding scene. “Working on the sets was great, especially having the opportunity to see how things worked behind the scenes. Amaury Nolasco (who plays Fernando Sucre in Prison Break) and Gabrielle Union (No.3 Cultural officer in Meet Dave) are great people.”
In 2011 James released his debut EP ‘James Zavaleta’. An EP, which sealed his reputation as a hard working, and greatly talented musician. Thus scoring him a number of fans around the globe, as well as approaches from other musicians seeking his Producing skills.
Soon after James put together his band, made up of; David Urquidi (currently with WAR the band) on Sax, Guitar players Alejandro Blanco and Dimitris “Jimmy” Mahlis, Kerry Loeschen on Trombone , Jose Peña – Bass, Jacob Vera on Drums and James himself – Piano and lead vocals. Kerry is also the musical director for the band and Co-Producer of James’ EP.
Now in 2013 James embarks on a new and exciting chapter after being approached to take the place of lead vocals with Grammy nominated Latin band Mongorama! The band created by Jose Rizo – Presenter and Musical Director of KJazz 88.1 FM – is a 9 piece Latin-Jazz ensemble who explore the early Mongo Santamaria, charanga-jazz material of the 1950′s and early 60′s. Mongorama’s band members include; Danilo Lozano on Flute, Ramon Banda -Timbal, Justo Almario – Sax/Flute, Alfred Ortiz – Percussion, Joey De Leon – Conga, Rene Camacho on Bass, Dayren Santamaria – Violin, with Singers Destani Wolf and James. Jazz Legend and guitarist Kenny Burrell also makes a special guest appearance.
“It’s a very exciting time for me and I feel honoured to be a part of this process. I feel blessed to be doing what I love everyday and working alongside some outstanding artists.”
For more information on James Zavaleta visit his website