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Rachel Z Shocks the Bunny

By Published: February 25, 2003

AAJ: (laughs) I wont even ask how that happened. I think we just called them hybrids. l think that was a Berklee thing.

RZ: You went to Berklee?

AAJ: Yeah, and then studied with Charlie for about five years.

RZ: I can't believe it. You're probably like the only writer in the whole business that actually has been brutalized by Charlie Banacos.

AAJ: (laughs) Well maybe, but actually l'm pretty much a musician who does this on the side, since I enjoy it. You also mention Joni's odd tunings and how that influenced you; made the songs easier to expand on improvisationally. How has that affected your choices?

RZ: It's the way she tunes it—it leads her to have open voicings with 2nds. And I don't really know exactly on guitar what it is she's doing, but it sounds pretty weird. I'd say "Chinese Cafe" and "River' and "All I Want"...she did some weird tunings and it just leaves you going, 'what is that chord'? Even if you listen a million times. And then there's some weird ways she moves the harmonies. Like when she sings, 'we love our freedom', that phrase has some weird chords, so I made them weirder (laughs).

AAJ: (laughs) Of course, because you can. You've got more room to do that.

RZ: Yeah, and "Big Yellow Taxi", every time we just added more ll-lV-l's. And sometimes I just felt like playing over jazz changes, like "Ladies Man" we added "Giant Steps". And we added "Confirmation" in Db on "All I Want".

AAJ: Pat does a lot of open voicings. Did you ever check out "Shadows and Light", that tour with Joni, Pat, Brecker, Lyle and Jaco?

RZ: Yeah, that's amazing. See, that's something that I wanted to say about the open voicings or odd tunings. Someone like Pat Metheny or Mike Stern can play all those weird voicings. And of course the father of it all, Mick Goodrick. Those guys can physically handle it. But Joni's tunes don't sound right unless they have those open tunings, so she came upon a thing that was really cool.

AAJ: Yeah, I'm sure that's what she was hearing in her head and by one way or another she was going to get it out. So that's really part of her voice.

RZ: Mmhm. I guess it would be similar to a choice of a mouthpiece. Like when l was with Wayne he had, like, fifty mouthpieces on the table. He was trying to figure out which one to use.

AAJ: Did you guys do contemporary stuff or any of the old Bluenote stuff?

RZ: We did "Footprints" and we did this massive reharm. Like every chord was reharmed. It was really crazy. It was so deep. We never put it on the record. We played "Virgo Rising", "Children of the Night" - all these arrangements. Nothing sounded good after playing with Wayne. His stuff was so sweet. But then I got over that when I started listening to Smashing Pumpkins and Nine Inch Nails. It was a cool stage to go to after Wayne.

AAJ: In your bio you refer to the experience and meaning of love, and its many sides and how it reflects its meaning in your music relative to hers. You mention specific quotes, "to treasure life and the love of your life" and to "put family first or lose it". It's really good to see that rather than musicians just talking about music, but things that are actually more important than music or anything that we may do with our lives.

RZ: I think its how you treat people...especially the ones close to you that you're mad at all the time (laughs). I mean, just because you live with the same person; its just so important to figure that one out. Because you know how musicians, we can just slam the door and go practice. I don't think its healthy. They end up alone and they're sad. And we all have to learn it. l think sometimes we're afraid of it. But in that song, "River", she said, "I made my baby cry, l made my baby say goodbye".

AAJ: That's a torturous line.

RZ: Oh. Yeah. Brutal, right?

AAJ: Everybody's been through that and it never gets easier.

RZ: Yeah. But then she said, "Is it possible to care and not care?". That's an interesting line, because l think she means detach at the times where - sometimes people go through stuff. And when we're young we'll just blow them off but when we're older we need to learn how to go through things with people, through their own personal problems, like our parents. My parents have been married, maybe, almost fifty years so they go through a lot of times when the other one is rejecting the other, or crabby, and our generation is, like, 'ok, see ya, you're not giving me what l want'. And people also suffer financially. Some musicians are paying for two homes.

AAJ: I think people don't know how hard it is to be a musician. They think it's the greatest ride all the way around and it can be harder than people can ever imagine.

RZ: Yeah, like when you're out on the road they think you're just out having fun but you're coming back to an empty hotel room.

AAJ: Yeah, and who knows what you're coming back to at home.

RZ: They're mad or whatever. It's really difficult to maintain friendships. For me, that's a stage that I'm at because l got over myself enough, anyway, to realize practicing 12 hours a day and being able to feel superior, you know (laughs)? There's a cover-up. You know, in jazz we all want to be so full of chops and like can handle it all, but then ultimately what are you saying with all those notes?

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