Keyboardist, composer, and Wayne Shorter, Peter Gabriel and Steps Ahead alum Rachel Z releases Sensual, a reflection on family, beauty, and being alive – out March 29 via Dot Time Records

Rachel Z is a renowned, virtuoso pianist, keyboardist, composer, and electronic musician with a star-studded resume, as well as 13 records as a leader. As a performer, Rachel Z has had longstanding careers with Wayne Shorter, Peter Gabriel, Mike Mainieri and Steps Ahead, and Stanley Clark, all of whose influence she carries with her. As if this plethora of brilliance wasn’t enough, Rachel Z’s partner in life and music is the legendary Omar Hakim who’s discography spans the likes of Weather Report, Daft Punk, Miles Davis, John Scofield, Bruce Springsteen, D’Angelo, Sting, and Foo Fighters, among a list of others that seems to stretch on endlessly. The emerging bassist Jonathan Toscano is in demand on the NY scene for both acoustic and electric bass and has been a powerful force in developing the trio sound. Combine this with Rachel Z’s second trio, comprising of percussionist Mino Cinelu (Miles Davis, Sting) and bassist Matt Penman (Joshua Redman, Kurt Rosenwinkel), and a featured appearance from bassist Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson), and the end result is a masterwork of genius and artistry known as Sensual. Embodying the beauty of family, relationship, and the art of experiencing the fullness of life with every sense, Sensual is a sonic love letter from Rachel Z to her husband and the musicians in her life who have become closer than blood, using the medium of jazz and rock that have been so integral to her life. 

Sensual was born out of beauty and heartbreak, simultaneously. In recent years, Rachel Z lost both her parents: a life-changing series of events and redefining moments within herself. Then, as a musician, her world was shaken when the great Wayne Shorter passed – one of her most important mentors with whom she collaborated for over a year to create the Grammy winning recording, Highlife. Rachel found herself wrestling with her musical identity in a way that forced change and “a kind of detachment from traditional jazz values and the expectations of others”. With her ‘jazz father” as well as one of the great architects of jazz gone, she leaned in to develop “stand alone spirit” through the actions of loving kindness, self-love, meditation and gratitude. She created a focus on the beauty that was so ever-present around her. 

The album’s title, Sensual, is derived from Rachel Z’s musings on the matter of experiencing the vivacity of being alive. “Pure sensuality is limitless,” Rachel says. “Each sense allows us to focus on the limitless potential for joy and presence in the now.” Over the years, Rachel Z has grown into herself, as an artist with a profound and refined identity. Now, she brings that artistic identity to meet with the musical personas of those to whom she’s closest, creating a collaborative art that melds minds, souls, and senses. The music of Sensual and its creation thus mirrors the experience of sensuality itself: experiential, living, and wondrously interpersonal.

Rachel Z’s compositional style emphasizes the art of utilizing “magical” harmony to create open sonic plains for improvisation. The timbre combinations on Sensual accentuate these elements, namely her distinct custom Fazioli-F228 Acoustic piano sound. Rachel Z has fine-tuned her tone to capture what she describes as a “raging low end and soft, gorgeous una corde tone.” The album as a whole explores the concept of the trio and what it is capable of achieving. By enlisting different iterations of her trios, Rachel Z implements the songs on the album as experimental vignettes, all of which fall into the thematic oeuvre of Sensual, to showcase the multifaceted output of the trio genre. 

Sensual’s title track stands as a dedication from Rachel Z to her husband, Omar Hakim, and in many ways exemplifies the idea of trio exploration. Featuring Hakim on drums and Tony Levin on bass, the track “Sensual” begins in one groove before leading into a break-out improvisational section over intentionally challenging harmony. Despite the marked intricacy of this section, the band’s wealth of time spent in collaboration allows them to create a sense of forward momentum without compromising any of the delicacy of the harmonic design. The track “What About The Kids” stands as a societal commentary, utilizing the artistry of Hakim’s drums and Matt Penman’s bass to orchestrate a call for a more stable world in which future generations can thrive. “Finances within the music business have become pressurized against the middle-class artists, most of whom are young folks,” Rachel reflects, in relation to this piece. “We have to protect the future of excellence in music and build an intergenerational mentorship around wealth-building through art.” The piece “Bodhisattva”, the title of which is derived from the Buddhist tradition of one who helps others attain enlightenment, features Rachel Z’s trio configuration of Hakim and Jonathan Toscano. In this composition, the musicians invoke the listener to “pay attention to serving each other and to lift up all people.” While eight of the album’s nine tracks are Rachel Z’s original compositions, the album’s final track is a cover of the Foo Fighters’ iconic “These Days”. The piece holds a special place in Rachel Z and her trio’s hearts due to Hakim’s time spent playing with the Foo Fighters, emphasized all the more due to the passing of their drummer, Taylor Hawkins. Rachel Z’s arrangement of the piece is described as “a 15/8 to 7/4 odyssey” that maintains the integrity of the original melody and flow. “We’ve been inspired by the focused resilience of the Foos over the past years,” Rachel says. “This is a musical jam exploration of Dave Grohl’s storytelling that culminates in an explosive, emotional drum solo by Omar Hakim, which is itself a tribute to the late great Taylor Hawkins.”

Sensual stands as more than an album; it is the summation of Rachel Z’s journey as an individual, as a collaborator, who is able to see and experience the world around her with an eye for the beauty that is ever-present but so often overlooked. “With this record, this music, I hope people awaken to their connection with friends, with nature, with their dreams, with the power to create worlds,” Rachel says. “This is a sensual life.”

Sensual releases on March 29th, 2024 through by exclusive license from Ozmosys Media Group to Dot Time Records

 

Tracklist 

  1. Save My Soul — 6:02
  2. What I Fear — 6:46
  3. Bodhisattva — 5:34
  4. Forgive Me — 4:10
  5. What About the Kids — 6:44
  6. Inamorata Enamorata — 7:38
  7. Shepard’s Lullaby — 3:30 
  8. Sensual — 6:36
  9. These Days — 7:30 

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