Rachel Z

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Rachel Z
Rachel Z Munich 2002.JPG
Born Rachel Carmel Nicolazzo
New York City
Education BA New England Conservatory of Music
Known for Jazz pianist
Notable work see below

Rachel Carmel Nicolazzo better known as Rachel Z, is a jazz pianist. She attended the Berklee College of Music Summer School and Manhattan School of Music pre-college, where she launched the quintet, Nardis, whilst studying with Joanne Brackeen and Richie Beirach in NYC. Later Rachel Z graduated from the New England Conservatory with a 'Distinction in Performance' award. Meanwhile she was playing professionally in and around Boston in a small group.

In 1988, Rachel returned to New York and co-wrote Tokyo Blue with schoolmate turned pro-saxophonist Najee and then played mostly keyboards with classic fusion band Steps Ahead where leader Mike Mainieri suggested she altered her name as to be easier to pronounce.

Rachel Z remained with Steps Ahead until 1996; however, she collaborated with a number of different artists during this time, establishing her name within the jazz scene. In 1995 she worked with Wayne Shorter, on his album High Life, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. She was responsible for the CD's synthesized orchestral settings, acoustic piano solos and several concurrent world tours.

While signed to Columbia by Dr.George Butler, she released an influential CD "Trust the Universe" which was unique in featuring a jazz A side with Charnette Moffett and Al Foster and an electric jazz B side with Lenny White and Victor Bailey. Her next solo CD, "Room of One's Own-a tribute to Women Artists" featured arrangements by Maria Schneider and Alvaro Cordero. "Room" won 4 stars in Downbeat and extensive critical acclaim for the original compositions and wind ensemble arrangements.

In 1999 Rachel Z was a part of a jazz fusion project by Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. The effort, simply called Vertú, featured such artists as Karen Briggs on violin, Richie Kotzen on guitar. The album received a very positive review from All About Jazz.[1] (Clarke and White played together with Chick Corea in Return to forever). She dedicated A Room of One’s Own to the many women artists who have played a significant role in her life. Her characteristic musical intelligence and development of her genre has made her one of the most exciting female jazz musicians of the twenty-first century.

In 2002, having formed a new trio, she created a tribute to Joni Mitchell called Moon at the Window. This trio group continues to record New Standards and formulate complex arrangements of pop and jazz tunes and has 5 CDs released to date.

Intermittently, Rachel Z experimented with her own rock group Peacebox as a vocalist. During this time she was also working with the Italian legend Pino Daniele with whom she first began working in 1996. She later toured with Peter Gabriel during his Growing Up tours from 2002 to 2006, which gave Rachel the opportunity to widen her fan base and work with renowned bassist Tony Levin. Her recent project, titled Dept. of Good and Evil, features drummer Bobby Rae and bassist Maeve Royce. This trio's mission is unity and its ideas for transforming modern pop songs into jazz masterpieces using the jazz tradition as a benchmark for innovative and imaginative arrangements have thrust this group into the forefront of modern jazz.

In 2010 Rachel formed a new band with Omar Hakim, called "The Trio Of OZ" which released its first CD and began touring; Z and Hakim also launched OZmosis Records in 2010.


  • Yin Yang Steps Ahead (NYC, 1990)
  • Trust The Universe (Columbia, 1993)
  • Room Of One's Own (NYC, 1996)
  • Love Is The Power (GRP Records, 1998)
  • Vertu (project with Stanley Clarke, Richie Kotzen and Lenny White)(Sony Music, 1999)
  • On The Milkyway Express: A Tribute to Wayne Shorter (Tone Center, 2000)
  • Moon At The Window: Jazz Impressions Of Joni Mitchell (Tone Center, 2002)
  • First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Venus, 2003)
  • Everlasting (Tone Center, 2004)
  • Grace (Chesky, 2005)
  • Highlife (Wayne Shorter) 1996
  • Growing Up Live DVD (Realworld) Peter Gabriel 2003
  • Hit (Realworld) Peter Gabriel 2003
  • Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped Peter Gabriel 2005
  • Mortal (Artistshare) 2006
  • Dept of Good and Evil (Savoy Jazz/WEA) 2007
  • I Will Possess Your Heart Pony Canyon 2009
  • The Trio Of OZ OZmosis Records 2010
  • Boogie Boogie Man (Pino Daniele) 2010


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