Plaque Award Winner – Outstanding Sax/Harmonica at 9th annual LA Music Awards
Jimmy ‘Z’ Zavala (born February 7, 1955) is an American musician. In his teens, the saxophonist (often known by his nickname as Jimmy Z), frequented nightspots in his hometown of Sacramento, California, often sporting his trademark dark sunglasses. During this time, he was introduced to the mouth harp and harmonica music of Little Walter and Taj Mahal.
Zavala went on to become a favorite in many Northern California clubs. When he took up saxophone during a three-year period with various blues bands, he entered the world of rock ‘n’ roll.
Influenced by Junior Walker and King Curtis, Zavala then began making a name for himself during a lengthy six-year stint of non-stop touring.
Zavala left roadwork behind when he moved to Los Angeles in 1980. His band members wouldn’t follow, so he set out on his own. While jamming at the Central Club on LA’s Sunset Strip, he came to the attention of Rod Stewart band members Robin Le Mesurier and Jim Cregan, who later suggested Zavala when Stewart required a sax player. Stewart was impressed with Jimmy Z’s proficiency on harmonica and flute as well as saxophone, and he became one of the boys in the band.
In addition to his work with Stewart’s group, Jimmy teamed up with Kevin Savigar on a session for John Cougar. He has also worked with Les Dudek, ex-Knack guitarist, Doug Fieger, The Rockets and Ronnie Wood. He then played with the Eurythmics for a number of years. His harmonica is featured in their hit song “Missionary Man”.
Zavala also performed onstage with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for Bob Geldof’s Live Aid concert at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia in 1985, as well as Petty’s Southern Accents tour. He soon became one of the more sought after session players in Los Angeles.
Other artists Jimmy Zavala has performed and/or recorded with include Dr. Dre, Willy DeVille, Rick Springfield, Carole King, Eric Burdon, Rita Coolidge, Thomas Dolby, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Yes, Rick Price, Corey Hart and Shakespears Sister.
Had a featured harmonica solo in the song “Blowin’ Sky High” by Berlin in their album Best of Berlin 1979-1988.
Played sax as a studio musician in the movie, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane in 1990.
Jimmy Z’s album Muzical Madness from 1991 was produced by hip hop producer Dr. Dre. Dre was also featured rapping on the album’s single “Funky Flute”.
He played harmonica in “Ghetto Cowboy” by Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
In 1997, Jimmy joined the legendary Etta James, becoming a member of her Roots Band. He toured with her for over 10 years (with some breaks) and recorded with her on 6 albums and a live DVD.
With ZTribe, his all-star group of session players, he released the blues CD “Caught Inside” in 2003.
He recorded harmonica and sax with legendary Mexican Group Jaguares on their award winning 2002 album “Primero Instinto”. He played harmonica solo on their hit single “Te Lo Pido Por Favor” (the Juan Gabriel classic). He toured with them from 2002 – 2004.
In 2010 and 2011, he toured Sweden with award-winning Swedish Bluesman Slidin’ Slim.
Today, he continues to be in demand for recording sessions. He also produces records and songs for other artists, composes soundtracks and commercials, and teaches harmonica and saxophone from his studio in Los Angeles.
He plays with his own band, Jimmy Z and the ZTribe, mostly in Southern California.
Muzical Madness (1991)
Caught Inside (2003)
Corazón Y Alma de un Jaguar (The Heart and Soul of a Jaguar) (2004)
That’s The Way I Roll (2014)
Confessions of a Glorified Sideman (blog)
Facebook Fan Page
Jimmy Zavala at the Internet Movie Database