Rachel Z Shocks the Bunny
AAJ: Ear training.
RZ: Yeah. The ear training thing is so great.
AAJ: I know. Its hard though.
RZ: lt's pretty hard. l spent hours in the Summer just laying in the sun doing that.
AAJ: I-IV-V-l and then guessing the tones.
RZ: Yeah. Mike Stern got up to 12 notes.
AAJ: Or 11 anyway. I think he got to the point where he was just naming the notes that weren't there, right? I think that's the way it went.
RZ: Oh right, wow. Yeah, l never got that far.
AAJ: Yeah, he's one of my favorite guitar players.
RZ: Yeah? Do you play guitar?
AAJ: Yeah. About 20 years.
RZ: Cool. And Richie Bierach, with him l had to transcribe solos from every era of piano starting with Lennie Tristano. And I studied Phineus Newborn with him. And then we went into modern guys. Also Wynton Kelly, Bud Powell, Bill Evans. Then I went from there to Chick and Herbie. And Jarrett.
AAJ: Yeah, I was going to say that I hear a lot of Jarrett in your playing on the most recent record ( Moon at the Window Tonecenter).
RZ: Yeah, probably 'cause the harmony is kind of like that, kind of open, folky harmony.
AAJ: Yeah, it sounds more like a little bit older Jarrett.
RZ: Like from "My Song" and stuff like that?
AAJ: Yeah, exactly. What else..."El Judicio", "Nude Ants" and those type things. One of my favorites is off that, "Memories of Tomorrow". I love that tune.
RZ: Yeah! Me too.
AAJ: Do you? Do you ever play it?
RZ: Yeah. I played that a lot in college. A lot, a lot, 'cause l really loved Lyle Mays.
AAJ: Yeah. You can hear the thread going through all those guys. He told me he plays that tune, too.
RZ: Yeah. Like the only thing is l got a lot darker, because I studied with Richie. And I got into Joanne Brackeen. So those guys I got really dark with, which was fun. But this record isn't really about darkness.
AAJ: It was just released a few months ago, wasn't it: Moon at the Window ?
RZ: Yeah. It was just kind of hard to figure out what kind of record to do right now, for these times, you know? And I figured l wanted to do something that people could understand and it seemed like a good time to do a tribute to Joni 'cause it seems like she's always feeling like these young folk singers are getting so much more attention than she is so we figured we'd give her some love (laughs), you know?
AAJ: Sure. Of course she's been around a long time and is still having a great impact on these people, whether they admit it or not.
RZ: Yeah, and they try to admit it but I think she's just sick of the industry, which is a little bit strange right now. I just don't know if this Brittany Spears thing is really doing anything good for us. Kind of making me work out a little harder, you know?
AAJ: (laughs). Well, I guess that's one upside.
RZ: (laughs) Yeah, that's the upside: keeps us women in shape. We've got to keep up with the competition over there. But seriously, Joni, she's really quite an influence on everybody. The songs are really cool so we spent a lot of time going through old records and trying to find stuff that would sound good with just piano. And the cool thing that I liked was stuff like "Carey" and "Big Yellow Taxi", you know. I was feeling that "My Song" vibe. And some people who don't know Keith Jarrett call it Vince Guaraldi.
AAJ: (laughs) Yeah, I know.
RZ: They say it kind of sounds like "Peanuts". Yeah, and I'm cool with that, too, 'cause I like him (laughs).
AAJ: Well, actually, now that you mention him, l can hear that, too.
RZ: Yeah. It was cute, anyway. And one thing that was really, really cool was when we did this show in the Barbicon Theater in London and people really loved it. And that was like I think the first time they ever really understood something I was doing. Because a lot of times l think these original songs, which are complex and weird, and are coming from Richie Beirach. They were really into it.
AAJ: A little bit more accessible maybe?
RZ: Yeah. So that was really fun.
AAJ: lt kind of reminded me of Herbie's New Standard a little bit. Was that a reference at all for you?
RZ: No not really, I never listened to that record. I know the A & R guy that came up with that idea.
AAJ: How did you come up with the arrangements for the new CD?
RZ: Well Bobby the drummer, he has a rock band and he sings and he's been in rock bands for years, like really heavy ones, like MDMA and Utah Saints. Pretty dark rock band. When he performs he's pretty wild like Hendrix but he doesn't play guitar, or like a black Mick Jagger. So he was really familiar with the pop forms but he was also in love with Elvin (Jones). So we would start playing and he would start playing like these Elvin grooves. it was different, it was like a new thing for him so he came up with a lot of these odd time changes. I was trying to make a more straight ahead record and he's like, 'no, we have to metrically modulate' and I was like, 'wait a minute...where did you learn that? you're supposed to be a pop musician' (laughs). So we just played them every day until we came up with these cool arrangements. And then the bassist (Patricia Des Lauriers) flew down from Montreal every weekend, 'cause she was doing a TV show up there and she helped us with the arrangements and then she wrote the one for "Circle Game", she wrote that herself in 5, which was like 'oh, great'. Just what l need. I can't count to five (laughs). But it had this cool Pat Metheny Group vibe, you know? And its funny that you mention that because I love the white album (first PMG recording).