Rachel Z

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Rachel Z
Background information
Birth nameRachel Carmel Nicolazzo
BornNew York City
GenresJazz, jazz fusion, alternative rock, rock
Years active1988–present
LabelsColumbia, GRP, NYC, Savoy, Tone Center, Chesky

Rachel Carmel Nicolazzo, better known as Rachel Z, and now Rachel Z Hakim, is a jazz and rock pianist and keyboardist. She has recorded 10 solo albums as a jazz musician. Her musical style has been described by The Guardian as: "unlike singer/pianists Diana Krall, Norah Jones or Jamie Cullum, whose keyboard skills are closer to the song-based jazz mainstream, Rachel Z is an improviser whose spontaneous playing is by no means eclipsed by the work of presiding geniuses such as Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner".[1]

In 1988, she co-wrote the Grammy Award-winning and certified Gold Record "Tokyo Blue" with saxophonist Najee. From 1988 to 1996 she played keyboards and piano with fusion band Steps Ahead with vibes player Mike Mainieri. In 1995 she worked with Wayne Shorter, on his album High Life, which won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 1997. She was responsible for the CD's 40 tracks of synthesized orchestral sounds, acoustic piano solos and several world tours.

Z worked closely on pre-production with Marcus Miller in the studio to mesh the synth orchestra with the live ensemble to create the unique and innovative soundscape. While signed to Columbia Records by Dr. George Butler, she released an influential CD, Trust the Universe, which was unique in featuring a jazz A-side with Charnett Moffett and Al Foster and an electric jazz B-side with Lenny White and Victor Bailey.

In 1997 she recorded her next solo CD, Room of One's Own – A Tribute to Women Artists; it won four 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 project, entitled Vertú, featured such artists as Karen Briggs on violin and Richie Kotzen on guitar and resulted in an album of the same name that year. She experimented with her own rock group Peacebox as a vocalist. During this time she was also working with the Neapolitan pop legend Pino Daniele, with whom she first began working in 1996 and toured with until his death in 2015. She 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 bassist Tony Levin. Her project, entitled "Dept. of Good and Evil", on Savoy received a very successful reception.[2][3]

In 2010, she formed a new band with husband Omar Hakim, entitled "The Trio Of OZ" which released its first CD and began touring; Z and Hakim also launched OZmosis Records in 2010. This group performed internationally adding Solomon Dorsey on bass and joined Pino Daniele for La Grande Madre Tour in 2012 while also performing OZ tour dates. In 2013–14, Rachel Z recorded and toured as additional synth for The Omar Hakim Experience. She played synth with Wayne Escoffery for his US and Euro tour of 2014 release of Live at Firehouse 12. She toured with Terri Lyne Carrington in 2014 for the Mosaictour and recorded on the 2015 release of Mosaic 2 "Love and Soul" on Concords Records. In 2015, she joined Neal Schon Vortex to open for rock band Journey for 17 gigs in Canada.

The OZExperience, now "Ozmosys" (Omar and Rachel Z), are currently working on their second release in their studio and plan to release the project in 2019. The band performs improvised EDM, electronica, jazz, funk, and alternative rock. In 2019, the new group recorded an EP Eyes to the Future Vol.1 at Power Station and the EP was mixed at Groovesmith Studios by Omar Hakim. The five-track EP was released on November 4, 2019 with Kurt Rosenwinkel on guitar and Linley Marthe on bass, with J. C. Maillard on additional guitar and voice. The band was hailed at the opening night of the 2019 London Jazz Festival in Jazzwise:

Is Ozmosys heralding or part of a new wave of jazz? Who can fairly say? But this quartet exudes a chemical energy which is invigorated by the jazz canon - without feeling shackled by it - to gaze ahead....Each player is at their unrestrained best. From the potentially explosive timbral variety of Hakim which feeds the thunderous rhythms and eternal dexterity of Marthe, to the harmonic sophistication and (at times) Metheny-esque melodies served up by Rachel Z and Rosenwinkel. The unit of Hakim/Marthe is the rhythmic driving force that tempers the conjuring of Z/Rosenwinkel: it preserves and strengthens the infectious nuggets of melodic and harmonic gold without compromising their complexity. Most fascinatingly of all, it is not just the audience who undergo an osmosis. [4]

Volume 2 is expected to be released in 2022-23.


Rachel Z, a graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, has been a professor at the College for the Performing Arts at The New School University (jazz and contemporary music studies) since 2000. She is a visiting artist at the Berklee Electronic Production and Design Department since 2018 intermittently. Z attended SUNY Purchase in 2019–2021 and earned a master's degree in Studio Composition with recognition “Outstanding Student Award” in Studio Composition and Electronic Music.


As leader[edit]

  • Trust the Universe (Columbia, 1993)
  • A Room of One's Own (NYC, 1996)
  • Love Is the Power (GRP, 1998)
  • On the Milkyway Express (Tone Center, 2000)
  • Moon at the Window (Tone Center, 2002)
  • First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (Venus, 2003)
  • Everlasting (Tone Center, 2004)
  • Grace (Chesky, 2005)
  • Mortal (ArtistShare, 2006)
  • Dept of Good and Evil (Savoy/WEA, 2007)
  • I Will Possess Your Heart (Pony Canyon, 2009)

As a member[edit]

  • Steps Ahead, Yin Yang (NYC, 1990)
  • Vertú, Vertú (Sony, 1999)
  • The Trio of OZ, The Trio of OZ (OZmosis, 2010)
  • The Omar Hakim Experience, We are One (OZmosis, 2014)
  • OZmosys, Eyes To The Future, Vol. 1 EP (OZmosis, 2019)

As guest[edit]

With Pino Daniele

  • Medina (Sony, 2001)
  • Pino Daniele, Francesco De Gregori, Fiorella Mannoia, Ron - In Tour (Sony, 2002)
  • Concerto: Medina Live (Sony, 2002)
  • Electric Jam (Sony, 2009)
  • Boogie Boogie Man (Sony, 2010)
  • La Grande Madre (Blue Drag/Sony, 2012)

With Al Di Meola

  • Kiss My Axe (Tomato, 1991)
  • The Infinite Desire (Universal, 1998)

With Peter Gabriel

  • Hit (Real World, 2003)
  • Growing Up Live Tour (Real World, 2004)
  • Still Growing Up Live & Unwrapped (Real World, 2005)

With others


With Peter Gabriel

  • Growing Up Live (Real World, 2004)
  • Still Growing Up Live (Real World, 2005)
  • “Al DiMeola Live at the Palladium” (Tomato Records, 1996)


  1. ^ John Fordham (August 4, 2005). "Rachel Z, Grace". The Guardian. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  2. ^ John Kelman (March 20, 2007). "Dept Of Good And Evil Feat. Rachel Z: Dept Of Good And Evil". AllAboutJazz. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  3. ^ Thomas Conrad (May 1, 2007). "Rachel Z : Dept. of Good and Evil feat. Rachel Z". JazzTimes. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  4. ^ James Shufflebotham (November 28, 2019). "OZMOSYS, Southbank Centre, Queen Elizabeth Hall @ EFG London Jazz Festival". Jazzwise. Retrieved June 9, 2020.

External links[edit]