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06 avril 2007

Rachel Z Unleashes “Good and Evil”

Sometimes the true nature of jazz is obliterated by our tendency to classify and label. Despite its “melting pot” roots and evolution, the genre is often embroiled in controversy over its definition. Enter an undeniably talented pianist/vocalist/composer whose chops shout Shorter and Hancock while her repertoire screams Sting and Stones. Such fusion of stylistic ideas has haunted popular performers from Miles Davis to the Bad Plus, and similarly, Rachel Nicolazzo—known simply as Rachel Z.

Be it a blessing or curse, Z’s eclectic appetite has proven a commercial success over the release of eight recordings, bridging genres and sonic sensibilities in reaching listeners from multiple generations. And assuming the diverse origins of musical ideas are simultaneously irrelevant and basic to modern jazz, Z’s newest recording should serve to place her exactly where she belongs—among the most talented and inventive of 21st century post bop magicians, one who should appeal equally to those raised on U2 and Smashing Pumpkins and those steeped in the lineage of Evans, Jarrett, Hancock and Tyner. Released in mid March on Savoy Jazz, the eponymous Dept of Good and Evil will be celebrated at the Dakota in Minneapolis (April 6-7), Jazz Standard in Manhattan (April 10-11), and Blues Alley in Washington, DC (April 12). Joining Rachel Z will be her “Good and Evil” trio-mates, Maeve Royce on bass and Bobbie Rae (also producer) on drums.

Rachel Z

Rachel Z initially seemed destined to follow her mother into the world of opera. Growing up in Manhattan, she began voice lessons at age two, then classical piano at seven; she attended her first opera at age nine. “My first doll house was a Metropolitan Opera House,” she notes. But on hearing “Miles’ Smiles” at age 15, she began improvising against the grain of her classical repertoire and was soon playing in a band covering Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan. She further crossed the classical-to-jazz divide by listening to Herbie Hancock’s interpretations of Wayne Shorter, launching a quintet named Nardis, and studying with Joanne Brackeen and Richie Bierach.

Rachel graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she worked with Bob Moses, Miroslav Vitous and George Garzone. Back in New York in 1988, she toured with NEC classmate Najee and co-wrote the title track to the smooth saxman’s best-selling Tokyo Blue. Throughout the 90s, she played with fusion band Steps Ahead, Al DiMeola, Larry Coryell, Special EFX, Angela Bonfil and Mike Mainieri, who produced her debut release, Trust the Universe (1993). Next Z collaborated with hero Wayne Shorter, arranging, playing acoustic piano, and directing his tour for the Grammy-winning High Life. In the mid-90s, she extensively toured in support of her album dedicated to women artists, A Room of One’s Own, before turning to more electronic-driven music via Vertu (Al DiMeola, Stanley Clarke and Lenny White). Over the past decade, her efforts have encompassed interpretations of everyone from classic jazz giants to contemporary pop and rock stars, including recorded tributes to Wayne Shorter and Joni Mitchell. A global tour with Peter Gabriel (2002-2004) as well as three more recordings brought her international attention....(more)>

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