Jazz Pianist Rachel Z
CD Cover - Photo: Janette Beckman, Art Director: Andrij Borys
(December, 2005) - Rachel Z secured her place in the jazz and rock communities through hard work and a dedication to the music she loves. Influences include Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Joni Mitchell, McCoy Tyner, Chic Corea, and Steely Dan. Rachel Z intensified her formal music education through studio work and live performances with artists such as Wayne Shorter, Mike Manieri, Al DiMeola, Peter Gabriel, Tony Levin, Bobby Rae, and others.
Rachel Z invites inspiration by thinking outside conventional boundaries. In a jazz setting, the music of Rachel Z is a creative union of jazz past and jazz present. Her recent jazz arrangements of notable rock classics will ensure a bridge for listeners to jazz future.
I first met Rachel Z in the mid nineties. She was playing keyboards in Al DiMeola's band, touring in support of DiMeola's Kiss My Axe CD. In more recent years, as a band leader, Rachel Z has put together an impressive discography of her own. She is currently involved in a number of projects ranging from alternative, and rock, to jazz. Our paths crossed again in February 2005 at the Jazz Factory in Louisville, Kentucky. Having now attended three performances by Rachel Z, showcasing two different music genres, I felt compelled to explore the artist behind the music.
- Mark D McKinley [Mark's Online Music Source]
Mogswebsite.com: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Rachel Z: You are too cool.
Mogswebsite.com: Much has been written about the impact Wayne Shorter, Mike Mainieri, Herbie Hancock, and Miles Davis have had on your music-- tell me about someone outside of music that has been a positive influence on your life.
Rachel Z: My Husband has been a very positive influence because he would blow up a mountain to see that I succeed and am safe. My family is exceptionally loving and that gives you a launch pad for growth as a human being. I love the people in construction and real estate financing because they help you build dreams and are very creative.
Mogswebsite.com: Let's explore what I refer to as pause and effect, or momentary restraint-- choosing silence over a fill note. Is it more about timing, or is it about spontaneity and feeling?
Rachel Z: I have a good sense of space and timing in music. I let it flow because it is totally in rhythm with God, etc., Buddha. No need to play what is already felt by everyone...but in life I tend to put my foot in my mouth.
Mogswebsite.com: Artistic collaborations have paired artists such as Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach-- what have you learned from projects that have explored diverse musical backgrounds?
Rachel Z: I worked with Gary Katz from Steely Dan who produced my first Peacebox demo for Sony Music. It was great because I saw how to comp a vocal track, and how to add cool harmonies.
Mogswebsite.com: Tell me about Peacebox.
Rachel Z: Peacebox is a project soon to be released on my Website only. It is a rock band, and is alternative rock, mainly, with some electronica.
Mogswebsite.com: Share a memorable moment from touring in Peter Gabriel's band.
Rachel Z: Peter is a great guy. He loves for the band to have a good time...he took us to Ischkl, a ski resort where we were supposed to try snowboarding!! At the last moment, the manager realized that I really could not ski, and he told Peter not to make me go. I went on all the lifts, but my feet never touched that snow. Later, Peter twisted his ankle, and we could not play Shock the Monkey anymore. He had to jump in that one...not easy.
I missed the dog sledding trip in Canada, because when I went for a run-in Boston, I fell and broke my right pinky. Not too cool for the piano player. I had to play the tour with a black lace bandage on it, and boy did I feel stupid. Imagine what I would have broken if I went snowboarding????
Later in the tour, though, we went on a white water kayaking trip--I was afraid to do that, but I did it anyway. I beat them [all] down the river and it was great!!!! I was also much more successful during all the water sports segments of our tour!!!
Mogswebsite.com: In contrast, share a highlight from a jazz trio performance.
Rachel Z: The most exciting things on these tours are usually the special moments in the show. Like some new cymbals, that Bobbie Rae got recently, were highly inspiring. That coupled with Maeve Royce on bass, has elevated my abilities and my inspiration.
Mogswebsite.com: Musician encouragement and inspiration-- how does enthusiasm differ in the studio compared to a live performance?
Rachel Z: An audience can make or break you to some degree. If they are interested in a wild adventure, then we are the group for them. We do not obey genre specific rules. We love all music, and want to take you there. In the studio, you can do it over again, and it sounds perfect. I wish I could record everyday. I improve quickly this way.
Mogswebsite.com: How do you prepare mentally before a live performance?
Rachel Z: Eat.
Mogswebsite.com: Has an audience ever overwhelmed you?
Rachel Z: I fear audiences that have pens in their hands. One time with Steps Ahead, there was a grumpy critic, snorting at me the whole show, and he did scare me. I bought The Art Of The Game and worked on my performance skills, namely mental skills to relax, breathe, and just be willing to give my best.
Mogswebsite.com: Where do you find your best inspiration when writing a new song or re-working an arrangement of an old standard?
Rachel Z: In Bobbie Rae.
Mogswebsite.com: Describe an art form that you enjoy-- apart from music.
Rachel Z: Eating
Mogswebsite.com: True to the theme of this Vision and Music interview series-- if you had to choose a visual medium artist to transpose your music into their art-form, who would you choose, and why? (i.e., sculpture, painting...)
Rachel Z: I really like the fashion of Tom Ford and would be a designer for his team, or the folks at Gucci...
Mogswebsite.com: If you had the power to bring someone back, what deceased musician would you like to perform with?
Rachel Z: Coltrane.
Mogswebsite.com: What legacy would you like to leave for the next generation of musicians to build upon?
Rachel Z: The method to be successful on the Web with serious music, that bypasses the gate keepers and the posers in the music industry. Also, to prove that you can win financially, spiritually, and artistically with great music. A system where we reach the people who love real music.
I want to leave behind music that is diverse and totally creative, as well as, well studied and technically awesome, original and innovative. A culmination of all that I know about life, music, and love.
(C) 2005 Mark's Online Music Source
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