Rachel exhibits a variety of influence - Bill Evans's sense of spacing, Chick Corea-like lines,
and McCoy Tyneresque block chords.
James Logan, Bone Magazine
Pianist Rachel Z has charted her own course in jazz. Rachel is an exceptionally strong performer and composer and has been sought after for versatility proven through her work with Mike Mainieri, Lenny White, Al Di Meola and Bobby Watson. She has also broken into the ranks and collaborated with such legendary traditional players as Ron Carter, Al Foster, Dave Liebman and most recently Wayne Shorter. As a leader, she's striding into her own with her dynamic women's trio and highly anticipated upcoming NYC Records debut A Room of One's Own.
Born in Manhattan, Rachel Nicolazzo was groomed to follow in her mother's operatic footsteps. She began voice lessons at two and discovered the piano at seven. While in high school, she attended a summer session at Berklee College of Music where she heard the classic recording "Miles Smiles". For Rachel, listening to Herbie Hancock's harmonies over Wayne Shorter's compositions bridged the gap from her classical training to jazz. The rest of the summer was spent listening the music of Bird and Bud, before she returned home to launch a quintet called Nardis. She studied with Joanne Brackeen and Richie Beirach and frequented the Vanguard to see such masters as Dexter Gordon and Bill Evans. She graduated from New England Conservatory with a "Distinction in Performance" award while developing an excellent reputation in the Boston area working with the likes of Bob Moses, Miroslav Vitous and George Garzone.
Returning home to New Yrok in 1988, Rachel toured with New England Conservatory schoolmate Najee, co-writing the title track from his #1 Billboard Hit album Tokyo Blue. Soon her natural melodic gifts and finely-honed harmonic sense caught the attention of Al Di Meola, Larry Coryell, Special EFX and Angela Boffill and launched her fruitful association with producer/vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. She recorded and toured extensively with Steps Ahead, and Mainieri produced her debut album on Columbia Records Trust the Universe. A dynamic offering, Trust the Universe introduced Rachel's musical diversity, reflecting the influence of Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny. Ironically, the CD features the jazz radio hit entitled Nardis.
Rachel has great harmonies and really swings at the piano!
Also fitting is Rachel's recent collaboration with Wayne Shorter, one
of her biggest influences. For almost two years, Rachel has been Wayne's
chief collaborator for his new project High Life. She constructed
a synthesized orchestral framework to help crystallize Wayne's vision
for the music. Rachel also played acoustic piano on the record and is
acting as musical director for the extensive tour supporting the album's
Biography courtesy of EMMECI.
As both an artist and person, Rachel Z's life and career is all about expecting the unexpected, never settling into one frame of mind or musical style for long before reaching higher to explore the next creative and spiritual level. Rachel Z., one of the most stylistically diverse pianist/vocalists in music, continues the excitement on her new project in which she and her trio honor the tradition and spirit of the lineage of Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter. This live to 2-track,acoustic piano trio release, "On the Milkway Express -A tribute to Wayne Shorter" is scheduled for August 2000 release on Tone Center Reecords. "Our goal is to bring our love of Wayne's music to the world. These songs-Footprints, Witch Hunt and Fall etc. are our deepest source of inspiration to play jazz music." The trio features Miriam Sullivan (Wynton Marsales, Lionel Hampton, JoAnne Brackeen) on bass and Allison Miller on drums (Mike Stern). The group will tour extensively through 2000-using their very special chemistry to take audiences on a magic carpet ride through the music of Wayne Shorter.
The Manhattan born and raised Rachel Nicolazzo 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 fifteen, started rebelling against the classical by improvising, and played with a band which covered Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan songs."
Listening to Herbie Hancocks 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 and began hanging out at the Village Vanguard where she saw masters like Dexter Gordon and Bill Evans. Rachel Z graduated from 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 home to New York in 1988, she toured with New England Conservatory schoolmate turned rhythm and 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, currently head of NYC Music Group. 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 crystalize his musical vision. Rachel Z also played acoustic piano on the album and was musical director for the tour that followed. The CD also won a grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album 1996.
1996 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. Among the many inspirations Rachel Z celebrated were contemporary dancer Judith Jameson, African-American novelist Zora Neal Hurston, and Billie Holiday. A throwback to the days when jazz musicians would travel 350 days a year, the constantly gigging Rachel Z toured for this recording with bassist Tracy Wormworth (Rosie O'Donnell) and drummer Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz).It was during this time that the seeds of the new trio were formed.The young Allison Miller and Miriam Sullivan performed on many smaller venue gigs and gradually took over when their mentors left to pursue their illustrious careers. The chemistry of this group became the foundation for the "Tribute to Wayne Shorter" project because the band became an artistic home in which to freely experiment and grow. "We mutually agreed that our favorite springboard for study and innovation was the music of the classic Miles Davis group of the 60's." The seed had sprouted.
In 1998 Rachel released an album which reflected the musical side of her spiritual growth on the GRP release "Love is the Power." This album features hip-hop grooves with melodic piano flourishes and poems about the search for eternal love and wisdom through music.
Her love for art of all kinds has also led Rachel Z to embrace the worlds of fashion design, fashion photography and recently Nine Inch Nails and the Smashing Pumpkins. Rachel Z will be recording a rock album featuring her songs and singing in her new band "PEACEBOX" in the near future
Peacebox. is a new alternative band which features Rachel Nicolazzo (RachelZ) on vocals and keyboards. This band features songs by Rachel and weaves virtuostic piano solos into the fabric of heavy guitars,mad drums,and melodic song construction. These elements,along with experimental chord structures, bring a freshness to the pop song format. The group also uses odd time signatures, lending a prog rock influence to the sound. The group is currently touring in the US and is seeking to release a CD in Jan.2001.
Recently, Rachel recorded a demo which features 2 songs produced by Gary Katz (Steely Dan's producer) as well as the original home demo versions produced by Rob Deaner. These 7 songs are about Rachel's life as an artist and girl of many faces . When Rachel started writing lyrics and singing- it became an obsession to put together a band and perform this music. The songs showed the way to navigate through life's troubles. Transforming the "poison into wine" through song is the greatest way to encourage others to create their dreams. Philosophically the band represents the determination to find oneself and to follow that course no matter what. Musically, the group is about playing some seriously groove oriented slammin'experimental rock and roll.
Rain-This song is about the necessity to change patterns of behavior which make it impossible to love and live in peace and coolness with others. Stuff like greed,anger,animality-cause us all pain but we still go off...until one day you lose something you really love. Changing is the easy way out...but I dread the pain.
Anything-A song about how little kids have a great connection with God until they have to go to Sunday school or are punished in some indiscriminate way and then this connection can be severed. This is about remembering the divine child and reconnecting with that intuition to lead to the right decisions which bring happiness. We choose our destiny-holy or not
Prayer-A song about learning to love unconditionally. To know when we must leave even though we hate to let go of love-to ask that our loved one pray for our safe return to ourself.
Creator-A call for protection to create art,truth,love,a baby,peace-in general a prayer for the courage to be creative.
Ugly-Kneel before the altar of Vogue/nose-job and new teeth can save your soul. We dig fashion and models and beauty but how about a little diversity instead of slavery to one image of lovely.
Protect This Child-This song is about the child breaking away from parental expectations. A song about courage to follow our real intuition and to break away and follow our truth.
Shapeshifter-A song about men who lie and women who manipulate.
The bands influences include Smashing Pumpkins,Soundgarden,Fiona Apple,Nine Inch Nails, Oleander,Nirvana,Steely Dan, Rage Against the Machine and Dave Matthews Band. We are a serious playing unit and like to express ourselves through exciting jamming and live interplay. The members include Miriam Sullivan on bass,Bobby Rae on drums Sarah Michaels on guitar,Stacia on guitar,Rachel Z on piano,keys and vocals.
Hometown: New York City
Musical Idiom: Straight Ahead Acoustic Jazz
Latest CD: On the Milkyway Express: a tribute to Wayne Shorter
Members/Instruments: Rachel Z.-Piano Miriam Sullivan-Bass Allison Miller-Drums
Record Label: Shrapnel Records, Mike Varney-president, Novato, California
Management Firm: Bad Bunny Music-Jim Black, Artist Services
Points of Note: The trio was formed in 1996 and has been developing their sound in NYC clubs and on tour since then. This is the first recording of the band and will be recorded live to 2-track on April 1st and 2nd at Avatar Studios,NYC by Dan Gellert. Rachel Z. endorses Yamaha pianos. Additional Data: The tour begins in April 2000 on the East Coast and will continue throughout the year. The band will perform the music of jazz saxophone legend Wayne Shorter including compositions from Highlife on which Rachel performed. The compositions are chosen from the 20 year span of Wayne's genius in jazz.
To hear us go to http://mp3.com/rachelz/peacebox/
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