Rick Zunigar

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Biography of Rick Zunigar

Rick Zunigar is an extraordinary jazz guitarist and an awesome talent who has played with many of the icons of jazz: Chick Core, Willie Bobo, Freddie Hubbard, Cal Tjader, Elvin Jones, Sarah Vaughan, Stevie Wonder and others... A player of traditional and contemporary jazz, jazz bebop and free style jazz - with an East Coast edge.

Recent Recordings

Rick Zunigar Trio - In a New York Minute - JazzUtopia
Rick Zunigar Trio - Clouds - JazzUtopia
Rick Zunigar - New Frontier - Headfirst


Rick’s inspiration to play jazz came from the great guitar legend, Joe Pass. As a teenager, Rick studied guitar with Joe Pass. By the age of sixteen, Rick had already hit the professional music scene, building an enormous track record that now includes performances, recordings and tours with many famous artists like Roy Ayers, Roberta Flack, Michael Franks, Smokey Robinson, Joe Sample, Joe Williams, Woody Shaw, Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Rick’s extensive work has exposed him to multiple styles of music and he’s developed a limitless repertoire of musical styles.

Rick’s mainstay continues to be jazz, but he enjoys incorporating all kinds of music into his playing - bebop, latin, R&B and fusion. This is exemplified in all of his personal works, which include recordings: New Frontier, Clouds, Random Axes Live and a Tribute to Kenny Kirkland. Accompanying Rick on his works are many great talents such as Kei Akagi, Alex Acuna, Freddie Hubbard, Mulgrew Miller, John Heard, Bob Shepard, Abe Laboriel and others.

Rick has spent many years touring with Stevie Wonder and many other great talents, utilising his diverse musical talents. Rick maintains his strong conviction to master the art of improvisation and composition. Rick’s goal is to reach more people and to make an enduring contribution to the American art of jazz.

Rick is much sought after for his guitar technique and innovative ideas and spends a lot of time as a teacher and clinician for many students. Rick currently publishes instructional books and media available from JazzUtopia.

Special Performance/Awards

Jazziz Magazine Guitars on Fire Grand Prize
Village Gate, New York 1992 Rick Zunigar featuring Gerry Gibbs (drums), Ed Howard (bass) and Kevin Hays (piano)

Notable Venues

The Baked Potato, Los Angeles with Ronnie Foster and Justo Almario
The Blue Note, New York and Tokyo with Hubert Laws


John Patitucci “...remarkably impressive guitar playing...”
LA Jazz Scene “...unique, intensive, dynamic...special sound fans rave about...”
Times Jesse Nash “...Rick Zunigar is a master guitar craftsman whose playing knows no boundaries...”

Professional Instruction and Teaching

Clinics and Concert Performances at:
University of California, Riverside
Cal Arts Institute, Valencia, CA
Musicians Institute, Hollywood, CA

Publications and Compositions

Original Musical Compositions for the University of Alabama Big Band
Rick Zunigar - Two Five Motives for Jazz Guitar - Instructions in Jazz Improvisation

Personal Training and Awards

Award Best Soloist California State University, Long Beach Band Competition 1975
Jazz Guitar Lessons with Joe Pass
Jazz Improvisation Training with Walter Bishop, Jr
University Music Studies
Sammy Nestico Big Band
Buddy Collette Big Band
Stewart Fischer Big Band
Self-training and study in Classical Music, Jazz and master of Jazz Artist Transcriptions


Phil Perry
Atlanta Peachtree Jazz Festival, Washington, D.C.

Stevie Wonder
Crown Plaza Hotel, Melbourne, Australia 1997
Natural Wonder Tour [Japan, Israel, Korea, Brazil, Taiwan, England, France, United Arab Emerits, Rotterdam, Netherlands] 1995
Fight Against Hunger Tour 1995
Singapore Tour 1993
King of Brunai Royal Celebration for the Prince’s Birthday 1993
Hotter than July Musical Picnic 1981
Secret Life of Plants 1980

Freddie Hubbard
Newport Jazz Festival, USA and Europe 1979

Willie Bobo
USA Tour 1977

USA, Japan Tours 1986, 1987


Village Gate, New York 1992
[Rick Zunigar featuring Gerry Gibbs (drums), Ed Howard (bass) and Kevin Hays (piano)]
The Baked Potato, Los Angeles [with Ronnie Foster and Justo Almario],
The Blue Note, New York and Tokyo [with Hubert Laws],
Jimmy Smith’s Supper Club [with the Jimmy Smith Trio],
Johnny Greenleaf’s, Whittier, Rocks, Santa Barbara, Jax, Glendale, Grapevine, Redondo Beach, Mr B’s, Burbank

Other Famous Talents played with

Sarah Vaughan
Chick Correa
Ray Charles
Joe Williams
Benny Powell
George Cables
George Duke
Patrice Rushen
Mary J. Blige
Ralph Tresvant
Johnny Gill
Tootie Heath
Pancho Sanchez
Jeff Porcaro
John Patitucci
Billy Childs
Blue Mitchell
Woody Shaw
Ernie Watts
Jeff Tain Watts
Jeff Berlin
Eddie Harris
Lee Konitz
Bobby Lyle
Eddie Cleanhead
Ralph Moore
Marvin Smitty Smith
Billy Higgins
Phineas Newborn Jr
Randy Crawford
Rosemary Clooney
Terrie Lynne
Harvey Mason
The Cunninghams
Elvin Jones
Kenny Kirkland


Rick Zunigar Trio New York Minute [Cornerstone Jazz/JazzUtopia]
Rick Zunigar Trio Clouds [Cornerstone Jazz]
Dave Collini ASAP [Optimism]
Benn Clatworthy While My Lady Sleeps
Benn Clatworthy One 4 Nica [Cornerstone Jazz]
Random Axes Random Axes Live [Cornerstone Jazz]
Rick Zunigar New Frontier [Headfirst]
Stevie Wonder Conversation Peace; Natural Wonder Tour Live; Hotter Than July; Original Musicquarium One; Secret Life of Plants; In Square Circle [Motown]
Take Six Join the Band [Warner Bros]
Little Jimmie Scott Dream [Warner Bros]
Lorez Alexandria A Woman Knows [Discovery]
Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway Featuring Donny Hathaway [Atlantic]
Roy Ayers No Stranger to Love [Polydor]
Clare Fischer Salsa Picante, Machaca, Crazy Bird [Discovery]
Jermaine Jackson Let’s Get Serious [Motown]
Smokey Robinson Where is the Smoke [Tamala]
Michael Franks One Bad Habit [Warner Bros]
Cal Tjader Huracan [Crystal Clear]
Crusaders The Good and the Bad Times [MCA]
High Energy Groove Patrol [Motown]
Eddie Murphy Eddie Murphy [CBS]
Wilton Felder Love is a Rush [MCA]
Mike Garson The Oxnard Sessions [Reference]

Film Sound Tracks

Francis Ford Coppola The Outsiders [by Stevie Wonder]
Stevie Wonder Secret Life of Plants


Stevie Wonder Do I Do, Do not Drive Drunk, Motown 25, NBC Friday Night Videos

Cable Television

Bet on Jazz
Rick Zunigar featuring Tony Dumas and Ralph Penland 1995
The Jazz Network Rick Zunigar featuring Mulgrew Miller 1991

The Freddie Hubbard and Pat Metheny Group

Stevie Wonder
American Bandstand 30th Anniversary, American Music Awards 1981
To Basie with Love at the Radio City Music Hall 1982
Jay Leno 1995
David Letterman 1995
Soul Train 25th Anniversary Show
Top of the Pops, England 1995
Tara Tata Live, Paris 1995
The World Music Awards, Monte Carlo 1995

"While dating back a few years, Clouds is an album of hard-hitting post-bop that well deserves a second look. Guitarist Rick Zunigar and his trio are world-class performers and Zunigar, in particular, is an artist who ought to be much more well-known by now.
“Rhumboogie”, the opening track on the disk, won Zunigar the JAZZIZ magazine “Guitars on Fire” grand prize, and that’s no surprise. With a lightening fast theme, and a solo that demonstrates Zunigar’s remarkable dexterity, musicality and ability to build excitement, the track is the perfect introduction to Zunigar’s playing. It establishes Zunigar, in a short five-minute period, as a guitarist of consequence.

While Zunigar’s name may not be well-known, the company he has kept over the years certainly is. He has played with artists including Stevie Wonder, Freddie Hubbard, Cal Tjader, Ray Charles, Roy Ayers and The Crusaders. While his own work demonstrates a predisposition towards post-bop, he is clearly a diverse guitarist, able to fit into a number of musical contexts.

With a style that combines the best of Pat Metheny, Pat Martino, Mick Goodrick, Jim Hall and John Abercrombie, reverential without being imitative, Zunigar emerges, on Clouds, as a voice that is as substantial as his sources, and as unique.

From lyrical linear work to full-bodied chordal passages, Zunigar has it all; a strong sense of rhythm and time; an innate sense of harmony; an economy in his playing that leaves no wasted notes; and a remarkable ability to construct solos that tell a strong story with a firm beginning, middle and end. “Beth’s Blues is a strong example of all these skills.

Throughout the programme of mainly original material, Zunigar also demonstrates strong writing, with a diverse set of tunes that are completely memorable; he writes melodies that stay with you long after the disk has ended.

Bassist Zoltan Dekany and drummer Dave Hocker provide sympathetic support on the majority of the tracks. While the material is Zunigar’s, the approach of this trio is very reminiscent of Pat Metheny’s Trio 99>00 with Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart. On two of the three non-originals, Zunigar dabbles with the organ trio format and, while they are also beautifully done, it is with Dekany and Hocker that the chemistry really happens.

Rick Zunigar is a guitarist waiting to happen; revisiting Clouds reveals a an artist who is at the top of his game; who is now the sum of his influences; and who is no longer an imitator, but rather a peer of the artists who helped mould his sound. He is an important guitarist who deserves broader recognition; why he has not reached a wider audience is a curiosity". JazzReview.com

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