Jazz Singer-Songwriter Nicole Zuraitis Celebrates First GRAMMY® Win for How Love Begins (Outside In Music)

How Love Begins, featuring all original music and co-produced by Christian McBride, won Best Jazz Vocal Album at the 66th GRAMMY® Awards

“A stunning singer with an equally adept pen.” – The New York City Jazz Record

On February 4, celebrated jazz singer-songwriter and pianist Nicole Zuraitis brought home the GRAMMY® award for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her 2023 album How Love Begins (Outside In Music). Praised as a “supreme talent” and “a first-rate songwriter, powerhouse vocalist and grade-A pianist” by All About Jazz, Zuraitis is loved by audiences all over the world for her relatable and emotionally-compelling songs, sophisticated arrangements, and rich voice. Co-produced by jazz giant Christian McBride and featuring all of Zuraitis’ original own music, How Love Begins is her sixth album, and brought forth her second career GRAMMY® nomination, and first ever win. 

“I’m deeply moved by this recognition and grateful to Black American music and its legacy in jazz and beyond. To my fellow nominees, it’s an honor to be in your company. Thanks to the Academy, all the women in the mix and the New York chapter  – for your support of artists year-round,” Zuraitis shared in a statement. In her gracious acceptance speech, the artist made it a point to thank jazz radio, music educators and supportive presenters. She also acknowledged the great Dolly Parton, who she cites as a prime inspiration. “This is for all of us who persist & endure, or who sing their hearts out in the back of a noisy bar hoping someone will hear them,” she said. 

Self-produced, and self-funded during a particularly challenging two years for the singer, the independent artist helped bring How Love Begins to life with the support of her community, grants and boots-on-the-ground marketing, complimented by a vigorous and grueling touring schedule. 

Released last year, How Love Begins is an ardent, vulnerable and relatable meditation on modern love. Made up of ten Zuraitis-penned compositions How Love Begins chronicles the many phases of love, and is divided into two halves, titled oil and water. This format, which verifies the idea that “opposites attract”, embodies a story of romance initially blessed with harmony yet eventually plagued with discord. 

The album was conceived between Zuraitis and Christian McBride in 2021 after several years of dreaming about collaborating. The musical partners first crossed paths in New York City, 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 came 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,” shared Christian McBride in a press statement. “I’m putting big, big money on Nicole. I can’t wait to see her career explode.” 

Winner of the prestigious American Traditions Vocal Competition Gold Medal in 2021, Zuraitis is one of New York City’s busiest and most versatile entertainers. As a recording artist, she has released five albums and appeared on countless others. 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 Macon Pops and has supported iconic singers like Melanie, Morgan James, Darren Criss and Livingston Taylor on piano and vocals. In 2018, Zuraitis and her husband, drummer Dan Pugach, were nominated for their first GRAMMY Award in the Best Arrangement, Instrument & Vocals category for their rendition of “Jolene”. During the pandemic, Pugach and Zuraitis achieved international notoriety with their ever-popular Virtual Piano Lounge, which was highlighted for Forbes Magazine. Much of her artistry is fueled by her keen interest in advocacy work and community building. Notably, the release of How Love Begins coincided with a self-produced music festival and day of activism for Save the Sound.org.

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