Articles review on the net, revue d'articles sur la toile

Inscription : feeds, flux :
(Atom) Gabriel Real World News

11 mars 2007

Collaboration with giants of jazz fuels pianist's artistic intensity

As she takes an early afternoon stroll along 125th Street in Harlem, Rachel Nicolazzo tries to find an area free from passing trains and the bustle of nearby shoppers to conduct a phone interview. Perhaps fittingly, the spot she chooses for conversing has led her directly across the street from New York's famed Cotton Club. As has been the case for much of her career, Nicolazzo -- better known to fans and friends as Rachel Z -- seems to find music around every corner.

"I was just trying to avoid the noise," the pianist said. "And look where I am. What a really cool thing."

This week, music -- specifically, the spry piano-trio jazz with which she has toured relentlessly in recent years -- brings her back to Louisville's Jazz Factory, where she has played annually since 2004. But clubs are hardly exclusive performance grounds. Just ask the tens of thousands of fans who saw her playing keyboards in Peter Gabriel's band on successive world tours from 2002 to 2004.

"Just listening to Gabriel sing every night, to hear the beauty, the overtones and the emotions in his voice, was such a thrill," she said. "Playing with Peter was an amazing artistic experience because of that voice."

Playing with giants

Glance over Nicolazzo's dossier and you'll also find collaborations with numerous jazz giants, from the diverse electric ensemble Steps Ahead to fusion all-stars Stanley Clarke and Lenny White to a recording called High Life with veteran saxophonist Wayne Shorter. And then there was a 1993 tour with guitarist Al DiMeola that brought Nicolazzo to Kentucky for the first time -- a Lexington concert at the long-defunct Breeding's on Main Street.

"I totally remember that show," she said. "The audience was over the top. I kept thinking, Lexington, Kentucky, is hip.'"

Of course, when you get caught up recounting tales of Rachel Z the band member, you tend to forget the artistic might and ingenuity of Rachel Z the bandleader. Early solo albums flirted with more pop-friendly jazz forms, but her past six recordings -- put out in rapid succession beginning in 2000 -- have been mostly acoustic piano trio sessions that have arrived at a very different junction between jazz and pop.

On the Milky Way Express (2000) was devoted exclusively to compositions by Shorter, and Moon at the Window (2002) offered jazz treatments of songs by folk-pop-jazz empress Joni Mitchell. But starting with 2003's First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, the worlds of jazz and pop converged. Tunes by Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins sat next to such standards as In the Wee Small Hours and Autumn Leaves as well as Rachel Z originals.

Battle of good and evil

Nicolazzo takes the merger even further with her new album Dept. of Good and Evil, which is also the name of her current band. It represents not only the blending of temperaments within her repertoire but the differing musical roles and personalities displayed by her touring trio, which is completed by drummer-producer Bobbie Rae and bassist Maeve Royce. (Trumpeter Erik Naslund and Peter Gabriel-King Crimson bassist Tony Levin also contribute to the recording.)

"When you say 'good' and 'evil,' you're really talking about the paradox of the world. So imagine then you're in the department and you come up to the desk of good and evil. What are you going to ask for in life? Will you ask for good things to happen or will you just represent the evil? So there's a kind of a political element to it all. In the music, I tend to play minor chords. That's why I'm in the department of evil. We joke about it a lot, but the chords are kind of scary. They represent a harmony I really enjoy, one that came out of the late '60s with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter. The department of good has the bass and drums. They're funky, groovy, slinky, sexy -- all the happy things."

New twists to old tunes

Nicolazzo has also designed another repertoire with considerable stylistic variance for the album. Along with two vocal tunes of her own and an original composition by Rae, Dept. of Good and Evil offers jazz revisions of music by Death Cab for Cutie (Soul Meets Body), The Church (Under the Milky Way), Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Maps) and Joy Division (Love Will Tear Us Apart). There are also champion saxophone compositions by Shorter (ESP) and the late Joe Henderson (Inner Urge).

But the best example of at least thematic good and evil comes when the record offers a melancholy update of the Police hit King of Pain before launching into a Dave Brubeck-esque alteration of the popular Flower Duet from the French opera LakmŽ.

"I'm not the listener," Nicolazzo said. "So I'm not necessarily hearing the record as being very diverse. We just made a record that allows for different tunes. Some audiences, for example, may not even be familiar with Love Will Tear Us Apart. While it's a classic in its realm, it's not usually done as a jazz standard. But when we interpret these alternative rock tunes, we're just as focused on the influences of people like Herbie and (pianists) McCoy Tyner and Bill Evans.

"In that way, we feel like we made a very straight-ahead jazz record."
Rachel Z

By Walter Tunis

When: 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. March 14.
Where: The Jazz Factory, 815 W. Market St. in Louisville.
Tickets: $12.50.
Call: (502) 992-3242.

Aucun commentaire: