GRAMMY–Nominated Vocalist, Pianist, and Composer Nicole Zuraitis Announces the Release of Her Fiery New Album, How Love Begins, Featuring Jazz Luminary Christian McBride, out July 7, 2023 on Outside In Music
Outside In Music is thrilled to announce the release of How Love Begins, the provocative new release from jazz singer songwriter and vocal/instrumental powerhouse Nicole Zuraitis. Co-produced by Christian McBride, How Love Begins is an ardent, vulnerable and relatable meditation on modern love that solidifies the GRAMMY nominated Zuraitis’ stature as one of the pre-eminent songwriters of our time. Alongside Zuraitis’ soaring vocals and pianistic refrains, How Love Begins features the aforementioned Christian McBride on the bass, Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Maya Kronfeld on organ, Wurlitzer and Rhodes, and Dan Pugach on drums. The album also features special guests David Cook on piano, Billy Kilson on drums and Sonica – a co-led vocal trio comprised of Thana Alexa, Julia Adamy and Zuraitis.
“Perhaps this album should have been called “How Love Begins… and Ends,”” Zuraitis says wryly, commenting on the duality she distinctly presents in the two-part structure of the release. To illustrate the many phases of love, she divides her 10-track collection in halves titled ‘part I: oil’ and ‘part II: water’. This format, which verifies the idea that “opposites attract”, embodies a story of romance initially blessed with harmony yet eventually plagued with discord.
Propelled by the notion that the polarity of love can often be coincidental, Zuraitis conceptualized ‘Oil’ and ‘Water’ spontaneously after a visceral reaction she had to the work of Spanish conservation photographer Daniel Beltrá. She stumbled upon his collection “Spill”, which at first glance looked to her like paintings with beautiful color patterns created from the brush of an artist. “When I learned that the stunnings works of art, with their swirling colors and perfectly placed hues, were actually aerial photographs of the most devastating oil spill in history, my heart sank,” she describes. “The irony was not lost on me. Just like a love that ends too soon, the common thread is that some of the most beautiful things in life can also be the most heartbreaking.”
The Deep Water Horizon oil spill destruction combined with the beautiful scope of Beltrá’s imagery struck a chord with Zuraitis. In effect, How Love Begins efforts to depict the all-encompassing journey of modern love, including the beauty of taking chances, the complexity of desire, the fragility of emotion, the blemishes left when chapters close and the long standing optimism of starting anew. The album was conceived between Zuraitis and Christian McBride in 2021 after several years of dreaming about collaborating. The musical partners first crossed paths at the Red Eye Grill in New York City where Zuraitis had a longstanding residency, just a few months after she placed in the International Sarah Vaughan Jazz Vocal Competition. Following many years of mutual admiration, the two artists finally come together on this fruitful collaboration.
“Working with Nicole was an absolute thrill. She does everything at the highest level: singing, playing, writing, producing, and arranging,” shares Christian McBride. “I’m putting big, big money on Nicole. I can’t wait to see her career explode.”
Musically, How Love Begins pays homage to many of Zuraitis’ favorite songwriters from Tin Pan Alley to today. Similar to the great composers of yesteryear, Zuraitis succeeded in composing material that is raw and relatable, with the potential of living on for generations. “I don’t want to be the only person singing these songs I write” she adds, fervently insisting that her goal is for jazz enthusiasts and professionals alike to add her songs to their repertoire.
The first section of How Love Begins, ‘part I: oil’, places the listener in a musical depiction of the thunderous excitement of a new flame that is just beginning, with slippery twists and turns. In “The Good Ways,” Zuraitis warns “You’re simply dangerous, like shock waves” and later “A little heat, a lot of spice / mysterious, never plays nice.” The adventure continues with “Travel” on which a broad, cinematic soundscape is presented by the rhythm section over which Zuraitis’ vocals soar, seemingly bursting with the desire to maintain the listeners autonomy and freedom.
She explores the vicissitudes of daydreams in her arrangement of the Debussy classic “Reverie” which has original lyrics penned by Zuraitis that meditate on how the mind grows occupied with “undeniable whirlpools of fantasy.” “Let Me Love You” is a poetic highlight with Zuraitis wrestling with the question: “Will you ever let me love you?” and later “Does this game ever end?” We’ve all been there before. But at least now we have a song that keeps us company.
The final piece of “part I” is “Burn” – an up-tempo and brisk jaunt, beginning with a notable counterpoint between Zuraitis and McBride. The band enters leading to a stellar guitar solo. Hekselman glides through the progression with angular lines, followed by McBride with a punchy, walking solo. The final lyric “I think i’ll finally try a new romance” conveniently sets the listener up for part II, though trepidation lurks.
Beginning the second section, ‘part II: water”, listeners dive into the deep with “Two Fish” where Zuraitis admires, “how great, the depth of their love”, painting a picture of storybook endings. The feel-good but filled with disquieting subtext of “Well Planned, Well Played” outlines a recipe for modern love, featuring “caffeine and affirmations”, despite being “deeply overwhelmed.” The album takes an emotional spiral with two thought-provoking numbers: “20 Seconds” and “Like Dew”. Ominous lyrics like “Alarm bells ring a warning sound” and “change flows like blood to the heart, while we’re growing further apart” set the scene. Though the fire was lit in part I, allusions to tears and water insinuate flames turning to smoke. “The Garden” comes full circle with melancholic optimism and acceptance, with the hope of starting again.
“If you listen a moment past the final track you may find faint glimmers of hope for the future, saved for a rainy day,” Zuraitis insinuates.
Following the July 7, 2023 international release of How Love Begins, the vocalist and composer has two major release performances coinciding with months of national release touring which will continue throughout the summer and fall. She will be producing a large-scale album release concert at Park City Music Hall in CT on July 8th, 2023 titled Siren Songs- For the Love of the Sound; a day of activism and musical festival benefiting Save the Sound.Org, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting climate change and protecting the Long Island Sound estuary, rivers and its wildlife. Additionally, on September 4, 2023, Zuraitis will have her official New York City album release party at Birdland with special guests Christian McBride and Gilad Hekselman at upstairs at 7pm. More details and ticket links can be found at www.nicolezmusic.com.
MORE ABOUT NICOLE ZURAITIS
A GRAMMY-nominated jazz singer-songwriter, pianist, arranger and vocalist, New York-based bandleader and winner of the prestigious 2021 American Traditions Vocal Competition Gold Medal Nicole Zuraitis continues to establish herself as an undeniable force in the modern jazz landscape of both NYC and beyond. With a “heart as big as her remarkable voice,” (Jazz Police) Nicole’s effervescent personality and boundless enthusiasm combined with activism and humor has positioned her as one of the top artists and songwriters to watch in jazz.
Besides leading her quartet, Nicole is the premier vocalist for the Birdland Big Band and frequently headlines iconic NYC jazz clubs like Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center, Birdland, the Blue Note, the Carlyle, 54 Below and the late, great 55 Bar. She has appeared as a featured soloist with the Savannah Philharmonic, Asheville Symphony and other noted pops orchestras, as well as supported on piano and vocals iconic singers such as Morgan James, Darren Criss and Livingston Taylor. As a recording artist, Nicole has released five albums as leader, and this summer, her sixth album How Love Begins, co-produced with eight-time GRAMMY-winner Christian McBride, releases under Outside In, featuring all original music. She is a member of the modern jazz super group Ryan Keberle and Catharsis, the Dan Pugach Nonet as well as SONICA with Thana Alexa and Julia Adamy.
Nicole’s arrangement of Dolly Parton’s Jolene, co-written with renowned drummer and bandleader Dan Pugach, was nominated for a 2019 GRAMMY®, springboarding her career and making her a household name in the modern-day jazz landscape. In 2020, she was named in the top 40 under 40 for 2020 in Connecticut Magazine, and her weekly live stream during the Covid-19 crisis, “Virtual Piano Lounge,” was featured in Forbes Magazine. Nicole has collaborated with an extensive list of luminaries, including Christian McBride, David Cook, Cyrille Aimee, Antonio Sanchez, Dave Stryker, Omar Hakim, Rachel Z, Melanie Safka, Helen Sung, and Bernard Purdie. She is a proud educator and currently vocal faculty at NYU and Suny Purchase.
An ardent activist with a decade-long track record of giving back, her newest album release coincides with a self-produced day-long fundraiser and music festival for Save the Sound.Org at Park City Music Hall in Bridgeport, CT on July 8th, 2023. She continually rehabilitates pitbulls and donates proceeds of album sales to pitbull rescue and mental health awareness.
For more information, visit www.nicolezmusic.com or tag @nicolezmusic.
part I: oil (tracks 1-5)
part II: water (tracks 6-10)
- The Good Ways (4:17)
- Travel (4:24)
- Reverie (7:16)
- Let Me Love You (3:41)
- Burn (3:46)
- Two Fish (5:05)
- Well Planned, Well Played (4:22)
- 20 Seconds (4:53)
- Like Dew (4:59)
- The Garden (5:24)