Jose Rizo was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised in Oxnard, California. He played trumpet in high school, but it was not until he was a student at U. C. Santa Barbara that he developed his passion for jazz. As a UCSB student, Jose produced the yearly Cinco de Mayo Dance Concerts, where he began to work with such artists as Poncho Sanchez, Cal Tjader, Pete & Sheila Escovedo, Tierra and Los Lobos. He also founded "Radio Chicano" at KCSB 91.9 FM and trained students to produce chicano/latino radio programming. Rizo served 2 years as KCSB radio station program director. Jose also hosted "La Voz de la Raza" on Santa Barbara top-40 radio station KIST 1340 AM and "Barrio Salsoul" on KCSB 91.9 FM during the 1970's.
Rizo began hosting “Jazz on the Latin Side” on KLON (now KJazz) on January 7, 1990. He was intricately involved in organizing KLON’s “Latin Jazz Club Caravans” and “Cinco de Mayo Latin Jazz Dance Concerts”. Since the early 90’s, Jose has also served as a member of various Grammy committees for Latin & Jazz. He was also the artistic director of the Luckman Fine Arts Latin Jazz Concert Series, where he worked with Eddie Palmieri, Poncho Sanchez, Dianne Reeves, Jerry Gonzalez, David Sanchez, Ozomatli, Los Lobos, Giovanni Hidalgo, and many others. Jose also founded the memorable “KJazz High School Jazz Festival”. He additionally hosted a daily radio show called "Jazz Goes Latin" on Eurojazz radio in Europe during the mid 1990's broadcasting into Holland, Denmark, Belgium and parts of England.
Jose has been involved with the “Central Avenue Jazz Festival”, since it’s inception in 1995, mostly serving as artistic director. The “Central Avenue Jazz Festival” focuses on showcasing great Los Angeles-based jazz musicians like Gerald Wilson, Barbara Morrison, Ernie Andrews, Poncho Sanchez, Anthony Wilson, Harold Land, Billy Higgins, Kenny Burrell, Arturo O'Farrill, Alfredo Rodriguez, Carmen Lundy, to name just a few. Jose Rizo recieved a national award from the "Jazz Journalists Association Jazz Awards 2007" for his work as artistic director of the Central Avenue Jazz Festival.
He has recently began producing a new annual 2-day Latin Jazz festival for City Councilman Gilbert Cedillo, now going into it's 7th year, the "Latin Jazz & Music Festival". Jose has also served as music curator for the yearly "East L. A. Meets Napa" AltaMed fundraising event going on 15 years now.
Rizo founded and is the bandleader of the “Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars”, a power-house latin jazz ensemble. The “Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars” was formed a few months after a jam session at B. B. Kings, celebrating 10-years of “Jazz on the Latin Side” on KJazz in January of 2000. This group has recorded two Jazz Week-top 10 CDs, “The Last Bullfighter” and “Tambolero”, on the Saungu Record label owned by Jose and his wife, Leticia. Ensemble members have included luminaries like Justo Almario, Danilo Lozano, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Francisco Aguabella, Alex Acuna, Poncho Sanchez, Gilbert Castellanos, Kamasi Washington, Miles Mosely and many others. They have performed at the Playboy Jazz Festival, Yoshi’s, The Lionel Hampton International Jazz Festival, The Greek Theatre(with guests Kenny Burrell, Hubert Laws, Andy Garcia) and at all the top local jazz venues.
Jose Rizo has just formed a second all star band made up of world-class musicians, called "Mongorama", inspired by the charanga-jazz explorations of Mongo Santamaria during the late 50's and early 60's. The debut "Mongorama" CD recieved a Grammy Nomination featuring master musicians like Hubert Laws, Poncho Sanchez, Justo Almario, and Oscar Hernandez. The latest Mongorama CD, "Baila Que Baila" includes jazz legendary guitarist, Kenny Burrell. Both albums have recieved international critical acclaim. Jose has contributed over 25 original compositions over 6 CDs for both bands.
You can listen to Jose Rizo’s “Jazz on the Latin Side” radio show on KJazz 88.1 FM Friday and Saturday nights. Jose will celebrate his 30th anniversary on KJazz on January 7, 2020. KJazz (KKJZ 88.1 FM) is the most listened-to jazz station in the country.