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Rachel Z: On The Milky Way Express

Rachel Z is one of the most exciting young keyboardists in contemporary jazz, mixing it up on electric and acoustic and adding bursts of creativity on tours with Najee and later as a member of Mike Mainieri’s Steps Ahead. Always a fan of Miles Davis and especially Wayne Shorter, she worked with the latter as a collaborator on his 1995 CD, High Life, which was good enough to pick up a Grammy for best contemporary jazz CD. Z’s latest sees her paying tribute to Shorter in an acoustic trio setting, with bassist Miriam Sullivan and drummer Allison Miller. A piano-led tribute to Shorter’s grand sax? Why not? Among the highlights are two of the best songs from High Life: the title track, a lyrical stroll over a slithering bass line, and “Black Swan,” a brief solo that presents Z at her most meditative-it’s too bad she didn’t explore the song at length. Elsewhere, Z recreates “Pinocchio” by leading with the intro from High Life’s “Children of the Night” and shows that the trio is at its best when swinging through such Shorter classics as “El Gaucho,” “Black Nile” and “Iris,” the latter a showcase for Miller’s fine drumming.

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