Rachel Z Trio
Gig Seeker Pro

Rachel Z Trio


Band Jazz Alternative


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos


The best kept secret in music



New York-born pianist Rachel Nicolazzo, nicknamed Rachel Z, is one of the more musically open-minded "young lions" to
have emerged from the 1990s. Besides making her own eclectic recordings, she has worked with a variety of artists from
Steps Ahead to Wayne Shorter. This project is her heartfelt tribute to Joni Mitchell and follows her previous recording of Shorter's compositions (a logical choice because Mitchell often worked with Shorter). Backed by drummer Bobbie Rae and Canadian bassist Patricia Deslauriers, Rachel extends
and elaborates on the sophisticated harmonies and visual poetry of Mitchell's music.
Although the overall sound of the trio evokes some of the pastoral vibes of Keith Jarrett's '70s ECM recordings, it's the Herbie Hancock-influenced piano lines and Shorter-styled imagination that provide the stylistic fuel for
these rhythmic and revealing reinterpretations. On "Help Me," "Ladies Man," and "All I Want," Z weaves in some sly Bill Evans and Charlie Parker rhythmic changes and chords. The title track bops with harmonic hints of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," while "Free Man in Paris" is redone with a Latin lilt.
Rachel Z understands that the beauty of Joni Mitchell's music is its ability to communicate, and nothing demonstrates this more than her hymnlike reading of "Both Sides Now," where Ms. Z makes the piano sing in Mitchell's moody and moving voice.

- Eugene Holley Jr.

"Downbeat Feb 2003"

March 2003

Rachel Z Trio
Moon At The Window
Tone Center 40242
3 stars

You have to admit it, the idea of a piano trio performing the compositions of Joni Mitchell sounds pretty sweet. Rachel Z first came to serious terms with Mitchell’s music via their mutual associate Wayne Shorter and her interpretations of the Mitchell songbook are straightforward and often inspired.
With a lion's share of songs drawn from Mitchell’s albums Blue, Court And Spark and Ladies From The Canyon, there are plenty of big melodichooks exploited here. And although Z deconstructs three tracks from Mitchell's 1982 album Wild Things Run Fast the pianist mostly stays away from Mitchell’s jazzier material.
While not as introspective as Brad Mehldau’s renditions of
contemporary pop tunes, Z still digs deep into the core of Mitchell’s muse. Drummer Bobbie Ray and bassist Patricia Des Lauriers are appropriately understated for this acoustic encounter and provide Z
with just the proper amount of propulsion. Familiar tunes like Big Yellow Taxi and Carey are both given faithful interpretations while allowing for some interesting piano workouts.

Things occasionally get heavy-handed, as on the busy title cut and Free Man In Paris, which sounds like a revved-up imitation of Keith Jarrett. Both Sides Now fares better, gently referencing the
Song’s theme before descending into a series of quiet improvisations.
Other highlights include an intimate version of Chinese Café and a lovely take on River that cascades dramatically.
- Mitch Myers


Rachel Z, Jazz With Some Pop
Jazz keyboardist Rachel Z, who recently recorded a CD devoted to the music of Joni Mitchell, has seen both sides of the Washington music scene now. As a member of Peter Gabriel's touring band, she recently performed for thousands of folks at MCI Center. As leader of her own trio, she played for a few hundred appreciative fans at Blues Alley on Wednesday night.
The opening set at the Georgetown club was devoted to Mitchell tunes, both the familiar (a contemplative interpretation of "Both Sides Now," followed by a vibrantly percussive "Free Man in Paris") and the not so familiar (a brightly chromatic, swiftly propelled arrangement of "Ladies Man"). Playing piano exclusively, the bandleader joked that even the best-known melodies would be transformed into something unrecognizable, "because we're jazz musicians." But Mitchell's distinctive themes kept peeking through
the reharmonized arrangements, which were alternately shaded and driven by bassist Taurus Mateen and drummer Bobbie Rae.

Mitchell's open guitar tunings inspired some of the harmonic
schemes that surfaced throughout the show, leading to spacious improvisations and modal interludes. The music, all of it drawn from the new CD "Moon at the Window," also evoked the influence of saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who's collaborated with both Mitchell and Rachel Z, and the late bassist (and Mitchell band member) Jaco Pastorius, especially when Mateen bore down on his acoustic bass
The trio ultimately saluted Mitchell in ways that
imaginatively bridged pop and jazz tastes.

- Mike Joyce


Rachel Z Trio_Kiss of Life
Rachel Z Trio_First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
Peter Gabriel Hits
Peter Gabriel DVD "Growing Up Live"
Moon at the Window
On the Milkyway Express
Room of One's Own
Love is the Power
Trust the Universe
Highlife-Wayne Shorter
Infinite Desire-Al DiMeola
Kiss My Axe-Al DiMeola
Greatest Hits and Medina-Pino Daniele


Feeling a bit camera shy


RACHEL Z TRIO Kiss of Life
Pianist Rachel Z returns with another outstanding trio date, Kiss of Life (Tone Center, April 2004 release), a collection of inspired
jazz interpretations of rock tunes. Like her acclaimed take on
Wayne Shorter’s music (On The Milky Way Express, TC 4011) this set pays
tribute to the music of Rachel’s rock muses. Rachel’s trio features bassist Tony Levin(King Crimson,Peter Gabriel,Paul Simon,John Lennon) and drummer
Bobbie Rae(Amplify).
Manhattan-born and raised Rachel Nicolazzo (aka Rachel Z) had music
practically ingrained in her genetic code. Groomed to follow in her
mother’s operatic footsteps, she began voice lessons at two, started
classical piano lessons at seven and attended the opera by age nine. “My
first dollhouse was a Metropolitan Opera House complete with the stage
and dolls which were the performers,” she recalls. “Then I heard Miles Smiles
when I was 15, started rebelling against the classical by improvising, and
played with a band that covered Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan songs.”
Listening to Herbie Hancock’s harmonies over Wayne Shorter’s compositions
helped her bridge the gap from her classical training to jazz. The way my jazz
chops developed was twofold. “I developed acoustic straight ahead and
electronic fusion playing equally over time,” she says. After launching a
quintet called Nardis, she studied with Joanne Brackeen and Richie Beirach.
Rachel Z graduated from the New England Conservatory with a “Distinction
in Performance” award while working professionally in the Boston area with
performers like Bob Moses, Miroslav Vitous and George Garzone.
Returning to New York in 1988, she toured with New England Conservatory
schoolmate turned rhythm & jazz superstar saxman Najee and later co-wrote
album Tokyo Blue. While performing and recording steadily with the classic
fusion band Steps Ahead from 1988 through 1996, she also worked with Al Di
Meola, Larry Coryell, Special EFX, and Angela Bofill, and began a fruitful
association with producer/vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. Mainieri produced her
Columbia Records debut Trust the Universe in 1993. Reflecting the influence
of Corea, Hancock, and even Pat Metheny, the CD featured the jazz radio
hit “Nardis.”
Her connection to saxophone great Wayne Shorter grew from major
influence to full-blown collaborator over the two years she worked on his hit
comeback album High Life, for which she built a synthesized orchestral
framework to crystallize his musical vision. Rachel Z also played acoustic
piano on the album and was musical director for the tour that followed. The
CD won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album.
1996 also saw the release of her NYC Records debut A Room of One’s Own,
which she dedicated to the many women artists who have played an
influential role in her life. Two years later Rachel released an album on GRP,
Love is the Power, an album that featured hip-hop grooves with melodic
piano flourishes and poems about the search for eternal love and wisdom
through music.
Rachel returned to acoustic music, in an all-female trio setting, with On the
Milky Way Express, her well-received tribute to Wayne Shorter, in 2000.
Joni's songs, such as Moon at the
Window (Is it possible to learn how to
care and yet not care about love),
Both Sides Now,All I Want (all I really
really want is to be with you and to
bring out the best in me and in you),
are songs I sang school. Later I grew
up and turned to Joni's Blue to explain
heartache with songs like Help Me. As
a woman I turned to her lyrics on
Chinese Cafe and River to teach me
how to value each moment and to
treasure life and the love of my life. To
put family first or to lose it. To express
feelings through music is the greatest
gift of all so why not write love songs
all day to the love of your life?
Joni also embraced great jazz artists
whom I treasure. I remember the night
I went to her house with Wayne and
heard him play gorgeous melodies
on her poems. She was confident and
inspiring to me and I left feeling more
determined to follow my heart!
Harmonically Joni uses interesting
chords due to her alternate tunings on
the guitar this made the songs easy to
expand upon for improvisation.