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Vinnie Colaiuta

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Vinnie Colaiuta
Colaiuta with Jeff Beck at the Palais Theatre in Australia, 2009
Colaiuta with Jeff Beck at the Palais Theatre in Australia, 2009
Background information
Born (1956-02-05) February 5, 1956 (age 68)
Brownsville, Pennsylvania, U.S.
GenresRock, pop, jazz, funk, country, heavy metal
Years active1977–present
LabelsStretch, Moonjune

Vincent Peter Colaiuta (born February 5, 1956) is an American drummer known for his technical mastery who has worked as a session musician in many genres.[1] He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1996[2] and the Classic Drummer Hall of Fame in 2014.[3] Colaiuta has won one Grammy Award and has been nominated twice.[4] Since the late 1970s, he has recorded and toured with Frank Zappa, Joni Mitchell, and Sting, among many other appearances in the studio and in concert.


Colaiuta was given his first drum kit when he was seven. He took to it naturally, with little instruction. When he was fourteen, the school band teacher gave him a book that taught him some of the basics. Buddy Rich was his favorite drummer until he heard the album Ego by Tony Williams and The Tony Williams Lifetime, an event that changed his life. Colaiuta was also listening to organ groups, notably Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff and Don Patterson.[5]

While a student at Berklee College of Music, when jazz fusion was on the rise, he listened to and admired Alphonse Mouzon and Billy Cobham.[6]

After leaving school, he played local gigs in Boston. He joined a brief tour organized by Al Kooper, then worked in California on an album by Christopher Morris, which Kooper was producing. Although he returned to Boston, Colaiuta was drawn back to California by friends. He took the bus from Boston to Los Angeles during the Great Blizzard of 1978.

After performing in jazz clubs, he won the audition to play drums for Frank Zappa. He toured with Zappa and appeared on the albums Joe's Garage, Tinsel Town Rebellion, and Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar.[7] Modern Drummer magazine chose Joe's Garage as one of the top 25 drum performances of all time.[8]

Colaiuta with Kenny Garrett in the Five Peace Band, 2008

In 1981, he ceased touring with Zappa to become a studio musician, recording for the band Pages and pop singer Gino Vannelli. Opportunities arose with saxophonist Tom Scott and bassist Larry Klein, who invited Colaiuta to play on a record by Klein's then-girlfriend, Joni Mitchell. When Klein and Mitchell got married, Colaiuta was the best man at their wedding. During the 1980s, he toured with Mitchell.

In 1986, he became the house drummer of The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers.[9] The band, called the Party Boys and the Tramp, was led by Mark Hudson.

By the end of the 1980s he was recording albums, TV and film work during the day, and playing clubs at night.[7] In addition to pop acts, he has worked with jazz musicians Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Buell Neidlinger, and the Buddy Rich Big Band.[8]

In 1990, Colaiuta got a phone call from Sting, flew to England, and won the audition to become a member of his band.[7] He remained with Sting for much of the 1990s, touring and recording the albums Ten Summoner's Tales (1993), Mercury Falling (1996), Brand New Day (1999) and Sacred Love (2003).[8] In 1994, Colaiuta released his debut solo album.[10]

On November 12, 2016, he played with Sting in the first concert to be held at the Bataclan in Paris since the terrorist attack a year earlier.[11]

He has won over fifteen Drummer of the Year awards from Modern Drummer magazine's annual reader polls. These include ten awards in the "Best Overall" category.[12][8]

Partial discography[edit]

As leader[edit]

  • 1994 Vinnie Colaiuta (Stretch)
  • 2018 Descent into Madness (A-Tone Recordings)
  • 2021 Mother's Milk (A-Tone Recordings)

With Jing Chi[edit]

(with Robben Ford and Jimmy Haslip)

  • 2002 Jing Chi
  • 2003 Jing Chi Live at Yoshi's[13]
  • 2004 3D
  • 2017 Supremo

With Mark Isham[edit]

  • 2019 Hard Candy (A-Tone Recordings)

As sideman[edit]

With Joni Mitchell[edit]

With Tom Scott[edit]

  • 1982 Desire
  • 1987 Streamlines
  • 1988 Flashpoint
  • 1999 Smokin' Section

With Sting[edit]

With Frank Zappa[edit]

Colaiuta on drums with Frank Zappa at the Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY. October 25, 1980

With others[edit]


  1. ^ Staff (July 22, 2010). "Vinnie Colaiuta: Unlike Anybody Else". Modern Drummer. Retrieved January 6, 2024.
  2. ^ "Modern Drummer's Readers Poll Archive, 1979–2014". Modern Drummer. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  3. ^ "Vinnie Colaiuta Hall of Fame Induction". Classic Drummer. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  4. ^ "Vinnie Colaiuta". GRAMMY.com. November 19, 2019. Retrieved May 9, 2021.
  5. ^ "Percussive Arts Society Interview 1995". vinniecolaiuta.com. February 1995. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  6. ^ Rule, Greg (2002). "Chapter 4: Drums & Drumming". In Doerschuk, Robert (ed.). Playing from the Heart. San Francisco: Backbeat Books. pp. 264–65. ISBN 0-87930-704-8.
  7. ^ a b c "Vinnie Colaiuta". vinniecolaiuta.com. Berklee Press. 2001. Retrieved November 15, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d "Drummerworld: Vinnie Colaiuta". Drummerworld. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  9. ^ tomsaviano.com/saxophonejournal.htm
  10. ^ Yanow, Scott. "Vinnie Colaiuta: Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  11. ^ "Sting reopens the Bataclan in emotional gig a year after Paris terror attacks". sting.com. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  12. ^ Modern Drummer interview Archived December 28, 2005, at the Wayback Machine, vinniecolaiuta.com; accessed October 26, 2014.
  13. ^ "Artist Biography by Wade Kergan". AllMusic. Retrieved September 16, 2017.

External links[edit]