Brooklyn-based pianist Rachel Z has won her fame for thinking outside the box when playing jazz, often looking for material outside the genre's realm to make her music. On previous discs, she has transformed the music of Kurt Cobain, U2 and Kate Bush.
On this new release, she includes, among a handful of originals, personal readings of tunes by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sting and Bill Withers, alongside material by Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson with very positive results. Listeners unfamiliar with the rock tunes presented here would never know that the originals featured electric guitars and (in some cases) screaming vocals.
On the original version of "Maps, vocalist Karen O sings the chorus with a certain jaded feel backed by a cacophony of guitars and drums; Rachel Z translates this into the piano, turning the song into a jazz-inflected pop tune. Legendary bassist Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel) and trumpeter Erik Naslund join Z's trio for Sting's "King of Pain, where Naslund freely improvises and Levin plays on his twelve-string Chapman Stick, filling in with odd high octave notes as Maeve Royce plays a more conventional bass line.
One of the key tracks on the disc is "Moon and The Sun, an original penned by Z and drummer Bobbie Rae, that features rare vocals by the pianist, delivered with plenty of feeling.
The closing song is the poignant original, "Saint Of New Orleans. The tune almost has a prog-rock feel at times and this is where the pianist really cuts loose, playing with amazing speed during a few moments and then shifting to a softer mode. It is one of the greatest moments of a disc that deserves repeated hearings, for every spin brings fresh discoveries to the listener's ears.
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.