He was a
pianist, conductor, arranger and composer born Salvatore Zito in Utica, New York, to a family where is brother Ronnie is
a drummer. His interest in
music started at a young age and he was primarily self-taught on the piano.
As a teenager
he became an accompanist at various clubs in his local area and once he got
into his 20s he made the decision to enter the Manhattan School of
Music. During his time there he
caught the notice of the arranger Marion Evans who gave him private
By 1961 he was
starting to be active in the recording studio when he worked on albums by
Bobby Darin and James Moody. This
was enough for him to have gained the attention of Frank Sinatra, Herbie Mann, and Perry Como, who he recorded with as
well as making appearances on “The Perry Como Show”.
also took an interest and in 1967 he was taken on as his arranger, pianist
and conductor. This resulted in
him touring with him for the next seven years and spending a lot of time in
the recording studio for many of his albums right up until the 2008 Grammy
nomination A Swingin’
In 1971 he
worked with John Lennon on the very successful album Imagine as his string arranger, which is one of the ways his
work is remembered today.
As a composer
he wrote many pieces of background or incidental music for TV shows as well
as for commercials with one of his better known works for the coffee
company Maxwell House. He also
worked with Doc Severinsen as an arranger on NBC’s The
He remained an
in demand arranger, conductor, composer and pianist for the course of his
career for many other popular artists.
Some of these artists include Billy Eckstine,
Renee Fleming, Eydie Gorme,
Bille Holliday, Stan Getz, Marvin Hamlisch, Quincy Jones, Steve Lawrence, Monica Mancini,
Johnny Mathis, George Michael, Liza Minnelli,
Nana Mouskouri, David “Fathead”
Newman, O.C. Smith and Zoot Sims.
output, as you can imagine, was large but a select few of them include Lightly Latin by Perry Como, Peace, Love & Truth by John
Lennon, Herbie Mann String Album by Herbie Mann, Songs
from the Last Century by George Michael, Don’t Cry For Me Argentina by Sinead O’Connor, Film Noir by Carly
Simon and L.A. is My Lady by
Frank Sinatra and Timeless: Live in
Concert by Barbra Streisand, Andrew
Lloyd Webber: A Classical Tribute by Julian Lloyd Webber and The Essential George Gershwin to
name just a very few of many.
He also worked
on several recordings with his second wife, the jazz singer Helen Merrill.
suffered from emphysema later in life he passed away in 2009 when he was 76
years old, leaving behind his wife, his daughter Lisa Zito
from his first marriage and his stepson Alan Merrill.