Neil Zaza's One Silent Night...
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Neil Zaza's One Silent Night...

Cleveland, Ohio, United States | INDIE

Cleveland, Ohio, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Classic Rock


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"One Silent Night @ Palace Theater 12/11/09"

Neil Zaza never does anything by half. If we can play louder, he will. If he can play faster, he will. If he can play a double-neck guitar, he will. If he needs a chorus to beef up his sound, he'll work with the Singing Angels. And he did.

And if he needs a singer with the lungs to compete with his guitar histrionics, he'll bring in Akron's world-famous Tim "The Ripper" Owens to lift the lid on the Palace Theatre, which he did.

In the 21st Century, one cannot underestimate the popularity of our rock guitar gods, and believe me, Neil Zaza is a full-fledged leather-clad Rock Guitar God. The YouTube video of I'm Alright, an original instrumental composition, has been viewed over 1 million times. Let's put it this way, our hometown boi is huge in Korea, where he is apparently this generation's Eric Clapton.

But while Clapton and his generation took pains to authentically re-process (and blatantly exploit) the bluez, Neil's beatific smile and scintillating stage presence aim for nothing less (or more) than total connection with the audience, by whatever means necessary.

Which means blowing the budget on fog machines, computerized lights, and every rock theatre trick in the book, all to guarantee that every photo you may snap on your cell phone will be rock-star perfect. You simply can't take a bad shot.

And I would guess that Zaza never gives an underwhelming performance. He leaves it all out there on the stage, giving you your money's worth every time.

But it's Zaza's ability to morph every X-mas song in the songbook into a classic rock medley that will ensure that One Silent Night, now in its 6th iteration at The Palace, will have a long and successful run. So the U2 guitar-chugging intro to "Where The Streets Have No Name," becomes The First Noel, (trust me), and what starts out as A Whiter Shade of Pale, soon enough turns into The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

After a while you start playing a game in your head. "Oh, this is Dream On, and he's going to segue into O Come All Ye Faithful... No, it's What Child Is This... But it's a fun game.

Zaza has plans to take One Silent Night on the road. And no doubt fans around the country and around the world will marvel: "They really have some great guitar players in Ohio..."


"Guitar hero Neil Zaza mixes traditional Christmas music and classic rock to create 'One Silent Night'"

What do you get when you cross centuries-old Christmas hymns and 20th-century classic-rock anthems?

Find out for yourself Friday evening, when local guitar hero Neil Zaza brings his popular "One Silent Night" show back to Playhouse Square's Palace Theatre for a one-night engagement.

"My thinking is, it's all cover music anyway, so let's really give it something extra," Zaza said during an interview last week at his Audio Kitchen recording studio in Akron.

To illustrate his point, he grabbed an unplugged electric guitar and played the melody of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." Then he played the power chords of the Who's "Baba O'Riley." The two pieces of music are worlds apart, but leave it to Zaza to blend them seamlessly in concert.

Backed by rhythm guitarist Nick Greathouse, bass player Raymond Liptak and drummer Garrett Janos, Zaza also will "morph" (as he put it) other holiday favorites with classic-rock songs by the likes of Queen and Journey.

"We tie a bunch of different stuff together," said Zaza.

Former Judas Priest singer Tim "Ripper" Owens is set to join them for a carol or two. He recently did some recording at Zaza's studio.

"I can hear it already: 'O holy niiiiight!' " Zaza bellowed with headbanging swagger.

"That guy can sing. I'm really excited about it. This will be the first time we've done anything together onstage."

They'll also be joined on a few numbers by string players and the Singing Angels.

"One Silent Night" debuted in 2002. This will be the sixth time in eight years that Zaza has done the show, although to date, it has been performed only in Northeast Ohio.

Zaza is gearing up to take the production on the road in 2010.

"It's crazy -- putting this show together takes two to three months," he said.

"Over the years, it really has grown. We keep adding more. More lights, more trusses, more things on the stage."

To his pleasant surprise, "One Silent Night" has demonstrated broad appeal, playing to young and old alike in previous years.

"In the crowd, we'll get everyone from young kids to older people," Zaza said. "I can't figure out why this loud presentation of Christmas music interests all these demographics, but it does. And I'm very appreciative."

In the late '80s and early '90s, Zaza (the man) made a name for himself with Zaza (the band), a hard-rocking draw on Cleveland's music scene.

After the group broke up, Neil Zaza found solo success as an instrumentalist, especially overseas. He performs regularly throughout Europe and Asia.

Among other projects, he's also working on a new album of instrumental music. His last one, 2006's "When Gravity Fails," featured guest appearances by Peter Frampton and Van Halen's Michael Anthony.

Zaza plans to release the new album next year, on his own Melodik Records label.

Of late, he's been taking pains to simplify his sound.

"With every record, I try to take the guitar out of it more and more," he said -- which, if you think about it, is a funny thing for a guitarist to say.

Let Zaza finish, though.

"The last thing I want to do now is shred," he said, referring to the nasty habit that many six-string virtuosos have of trying to fire off as many notes as humanly possible in record time.

"I want to play more song-based music, to sing the melody or the main theme with the guitar," Zaza said.

"A lot of times when you get these instrumental records, it's just . . ."

He closed his eyes and let his fingers dance over the neck of his guitar, pretending to play a complicated riff.

"That's great, but I want to hear a song," Zaza said.

"That's really where my head has been the past few years. I want to play the best songs -- and oh, by the way, I play guitar." - By John Soeder, The Plain Dealer


"A Night at the Palace" 2 CD live set
"One Silent Night... Volumes 1 & 2"



Did you ever wish your favorite rock or Bach could be transformed to Christmas? Ever think Beethoven’s Fifth could evolve into the Drummer Boy? Ever believe that in a crowd of 2500+ people a guitar and its master could speak personally to you?
Neil Zaza’s “One Silent Night...” is a Christmas dose of sheer sonic bliss.

Internationally renowned guitar virtuoso Neil Zaza intertwines holiday standards, classic Rock favorites, classical repertoire and orchestral arrangements in a unique instrumental concert production that has to be experienced to be believed. Not just another boring take on the standard holiday concert, Zaza’s “One Silent Night…” is a supercharged, vibrant celebration of music itself as seen and heard through the fingers of one of the world’s greatest guitar masters! Although the guitar is the instrument, the music will speak to you through the fingers and soul of Neil Zaza. A unique experience that will leave you begging to hear more.

With surprise vocals and interactive moments, sit back and prepare yourself for an emotive, provocative and soulful performance by a player that many consider to own this genre of playing.

Neil, his band, and a 60 piece orchestra aren’t just performing holiday music with “One Silent Night...”-they are literally reinventing it.

This show attracts a fanatical audience from age eight to eighty, and for good reason. There is something timeless for everyone one in this production whether you are a casual music fan, holiday music lover, guitarist, musician or just love to celebrate the season with a totally groundbreaking, different and uplifting experience.

We’re sure you’ve made a habit out of seeing other Christmas shows over the past few years. This year, it’s time for a completely fresh and powerful new take on the season. Once experienced, you’ll never settle for holiday music on the radio again.

This spectacle called Neil Zaza’s “One Silent Night...” will be the holiday production you won’t soon forget.