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 Beirachin 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 Vertu, featured such artists as Karen Briggs on violin, Richie Kotzen on guitar. The album received a very positive review from All About Jazz. (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 trio with Bobbie Rae, 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 and Bobbie Rae as the producer. During this time she was also working with the Italian legend Pino Danielewith 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 and husband 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.