Bands: Frank Zappa, Sting, Chick Corea, Jeff Beck, Herbie Hancock, Tal Wilkenfeld, Five Peace Band, Megadeth, Nik Kershaw
Drumsticks: Vic Firth
After attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston for a year, Colaiuta had his first big break as a member of the Christopher Morris Band in 1976-1977. Playing and recording with the Christopher Morris Band (MCA 2282) in 1977, Colaiuta relocated with the band to Los Angeles. After leaving the Christopher Morris Band, he made a mediocre living playing with lounge bands. His next break came in April 1978 at the age of 22, when Colaiuta auditioned for Frank Zappa, an audition that involved performing the notoriously difficult piece entitled "The Black Page". The audition was successful and Colaiuta went on to work with Zappa as his principal drummer for studio and live performances. He played on the successful Zappa albums Tinsel Town Rebellion, Joe's Garage, and Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar. Joe's Garage was named one of the top-25 drumming performances of all time in a 1993 Modern Drummer article.
About Colaiuta's ability to play Zappa's notoriously complex music and the complex style of polyrhythms, guitarist Steve Vai told the following story:
"He's one of the most amazing sight-readers that ever existed on the instrument. One day we were in a Frank rehearsal, this was early '80s, and Frank brought in this piece of music called "Mo 'N Herb's Vacation." Just unbelievably complex. All the drums were written out, just like "The Black Page" except even more complex. There were these runs of like 17 over 3 and every drumhead is notated differently. And there were a whole bunch of people there, I think Bozzio was there. Vinnie had this piece of music on the stand to his right. To his left he had another music stand with a plate of sushi on it, okay? Now the tempo of the piece was very slow, like "The Black Page." And then the first riff came in, [mimics bizarre Zappa-esque drum rhythm patterns] with all these choking of cymbals, and hi-hat, riffs, spinning of rototoms and all this crazy stuff. And I saw Vinnie reading this thing. Now, Vinnie has this habit of pushing his glasses up with the middle finger of his right hand. Well I saw him look at this one bar of music, it was the last bar of music on the page. He started to play it as he was turning the page with one hand, and then once the page was turned he continued playing the riff with his right hand, as he reached over with his left hand, grabbed a piece of sushi and put it in his mouth, continued the riff with his left hand and feet, pushed his glasses up, and then played the remaining part of the bar. It was the slickest thing I have ever seen. Frank threw his music up in the air. Bozzio turned around and walked away. I just started laughing."
Colaiuta is mentioned in Frank Zappa's song, "Catholic Girls" by the character Mary.
After leaving Zappa, Colaiuta went on to work with a long list of notable rock and pop artists, including Gino Vannelli, Joni Mitchell, Barbra Streisand, Jay Vaquer, Clannad, Wang Chung, Chaka Khan, Megadeth, The Beach Boys, Leonard Cohen and Jeff Beck. He has also appeared with many notable jazz musicians, including Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Jimmy Haslip, Quincy Jones, the Buddy Rich Big Band and Buell Neidlinger. He has also played with Chuck Loeb, David Goldblatt, David Sancious, Dean Brown, Jeff Porcaro, Jim Beard, John Patitucci, Joe Satriani, Mark Egan, Gigi D'Alessio, Robben Ford, and Tim Landers.
In 1990, Colaiuta successfully auditioned as drummer in Sting's touring band in support of his album The Soul Cages. Colaiuta remained as a member of Sting's band for the next seven years. He declined the offer to go out on the road for the Brand New Day tour in 1999 due to the considerable length of a typical Sting world tour. Colaiuta's studio work with Sting can be heard on Ten Summoner's Tales (1993), Mercury Falling (1996), three songs on Brand New Day (1999) and two songs on Sacred Love (2003). In September 2003, he returned to Sting's touring lineup in a brief promotional tour of Sacred Love, but once again declined the offer to participate in the world tour. At 10.21.2011 Vinnie Colaiuta rejoined Sting's tour band for performing on the Back to Bass Tour. So he continues his live collaboration with Sting after almost fifteen years.
Colaiuta released a self-titled solo recording in 1994, and still remains one of the most in demand studio musicians playing on countless albums, film soundtracks, TV and radio jingles. His dedication to self-improvement is legendary: Dom Famularo, a famous drum educator and Colaiuta's friend, once told a story about Colaiuta opening his door while practicing on a drum pad; after a few minutes of a chat on the door step, Colaiuta said: "I'm such a bad host, I haven't offered you anything! Do you want a pad?"
Colaiuta has won a total of 18 Drummer of the Year awards from Modern Drummer magazine's annual reader polls. These include 10 awards in the "Best Overall" category. Colaiuta was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1996. The publication also cited Colaiuta as being the most important drummer of our time.
2000 to present
In 2004 Colaiuta played drums on the film score of Elektra as director Rob Bowman is a great fan of his.
In 2006 to 2007, Colaiuta toured with Jeff Beck and Tal Wilkenfeld on bass, with Jason Rebello playing keyboards, in Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Colaiuta recorded and toured with Faith Hill, recorded with the thrash metal outfit Megadeth on their album The System Has Failed, and toured with Jeff Beck and Herbie Hancock.
From October 22 to November 23, 2008, Colaiuta toured Europe with John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett and Christian McBride in the Five Peace Band.
2009 saw the release of the Zappa alumni all star band The Mar Vista Philharmonic, featuring Tommy Mars, Bruce Fowler, Walt Fowler, Arthur Barrow, among others, on Jon Larsens Zonic Entertainment label.
In 2012, Vinnie Colaiuta began playing and endorsing Paiste cymbals, particularly the 602 series; Paiste created prototype 602s in new sizes to accommodate his requirements which have now been developed into full retail products.
He was, previously, a long-time Zildjian Cymbal and Drumstick endorser and, in 1990, was heavily involved in the development of their A Custom line of cymbals.
Around the time of Paiste's announcement, he also signed with Ludwig, a partnership that dissolved after 18 months.
He was previously signed with Yamaha Drums until 1995 when he left to sign with Gretsch Drums. Yamaha offered a Signature Snare Drum designed by Colaiuta, while Gretsch offered a complete kit bearing his signature.
Generally speaking, his preferred drumset configuration comprises a 22" bass drum, 10" and 12" rack toms, 14" and 16" floor toms with a main and auxiliary snare drum. Though more recently, he has been using a configuration with only a 13" rack tom with 16" and 18" floor toms.
As of 2013, he has also chosen to endorse Vic Firth Sticks.
Vinnie Colaiuta Drumstick Collection
Current Drumstick Count in Collection: 8.