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Rachel Z Shocks the Bunny

By Published: February 25, 2003

AAJ: Oh, that album just changed my life.

RZ: Me too!

AAJ: 1979 I think, l picked up a used copy, it was already in the used bin.

RZ: Oh, wow.

AAJ: And it just blew me away. I mean, nothing's ever been the same. ls he like a really huge influence on you?

RZ: Yeah, I'd say so. But I sort of got more into straight ahead jazz at the same time. Like I went to the New England Conservatory and Fred Hersh yelled at me to learn at least 200 standards in 12 keys and then Charlie, you know (laughs). So l had to become well versed in the jazz vocabulary. I had nothing but time in college. I practiced 12 hours a day. I was a total dork.

AAJ: But it just burns you out and you have no social life.

RZ: Yeah. Nobody liked me. And they still don't.

AAJ: Oh, that's not true.

RZ: (laughs) l have no friends.

AAJ: You actually have some pretty good friends from looking at your website! I think I'd trade with you.

RZ: (laughs) Yeah, they did some good stuff, huh?

AAJ: Yeah. Its really cool. Well, when you were at NEC you were working with people like Bob Moses and George Garzone and Miroslav (Vitous).

RZ: No, that was pretty cool. Bob Moses is a master. Bob Moses played in my first trio. And you know why...because he was in Pat Metheny's first band! Yeah, he's on Bright Sized Life.

AAJ: Pat would always say that band was so much better than on Bright Sized Life. Like they were more subdued (on record). Like if you've ever read Jaco's biography ( JACO: The Extraordinary Life And Times Of Jaco Pastorius (Miller Freeman Books, 1995) they talk about how different those gigs were live (from the record).

RZ: Oh, man. That band was just killer! So l had to have Bob Moses in my first band. And he did my demo.

AAJ: Who played bass?

RZ: Bruno Raburg, a really good bassist in Boston who teaches at Berklee. And I did a concert within the last year with Kenwood Dennard. But we gave all the money to Bob. It was a Ryles every Wednesday gig. Well, it was the only way we could get him to play with us. We used to call it 'pay to play', you know. We'd get all these heavy guys and we'd pay them all the money. Like one time we had Randy Brecker come up from New York. We paid him all the door money which was about 700 bucks. And then it helped me later when Mike Maineri - I sent him a demo tape and he called Randy Brecker to see if I could play. And Randy said, 'yeah'. So it was funny.

AAJ: That's cool. I guess you're always paying dues one way or another.

RZ: Yeah, that's for sure. Except now, I can't think of any way that I'm paying dues. At least for a few months (laughs). I'm sure when I get back to New York I'll be paying some dues again. But the biggest thing that happens in New York is it rains on your gig.

AAJ: Well, now you've got connections every which way with the Gabriel thing.

RZ: This show is a trip because we have all this production. And also just hearing Peter sing. Awesome.

AAJ: So what'll you do after this tour is over?

RZ: We're going to go everywhere. (promoting "Moon at the Window"). Its hitting the streets in February.

AAJ: Hopefully Texas, too.

RZ: Yeah, I would love to come down there. Its so far though.

AAJ: Well, depends on where you are, l guess.

RZ: I've played at Deep Ellum.

AAJ: Yeah, in Dallas.

RZ: And Houston with Al Dimeola. But we're going to get out with the trio and do an extended tour and right now we're doing an in store...J&R Music World this week.

AAJ: When you were with Shorter, can you describe what that was like for you and what he wanted from you?

RZ: That was amazing. That was like music camp. 'Cause I love chords and he was just all about the chords. All different harmonic structures that were just really, really beautiful.

AAJ: How would you describe the chords...were they just like certain types of voicings he liked?

RZ: Yeah. Certain big, orchestral voicings. Like minor 6ths, say, Bmb6?

AAJ: Like a modal voicing.

RZ: Yeah.

AAJ: So did he change your perspective in any way or get you to do anything you hadn't?

RZ: Yeah, because at that time in jazz, when I was working with him, Wynton was really big. And he was talking about, like, 'you must adhere to these ideas of jazz'. And Wayne was saying, 'you must not adhere to any ideas of jazz' (laughs), that you must go for total imagination and creativity. And he liked to use synthesizers and weird sounds. I wish I had the programmer now that I had with Wayne.

AAJ: Are you going to be on Peter's next recording?

RZ: I think its done already. He did two in a row.

AAJ: He's got an incredible studio.

RZ: Yeah, its really beautiful. Really, really nice. I would say that he and Wayne have a lot of similarities. Wayne's really into open voicings and so is Peter. He's really into melody and so is Peter and he's really into a certain sound on the saxophone which reminds me of Peter's voice; a lot of warmth and a lot overtones. and the way that they phrase is a lot about talking rather than singing a stiff kind of melody. And that was something that Joni does, too, so we had to try to do that on the record, to get that phrasing right. That's what I liked a lot about the songs that we did, like "Chinese Cafe" and "Both Sides Now". We did a reharm of it and l think that that was the hippest thing on the record. "Both Sides Now", those are all Waynish chords. They're all flat 6ths. We call them 'mom over dads', (laughs) you know, like Db over G.

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