Rachel Z

Love Is the Power

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For most artists, an album title like Love Is the Power might be a cue to create songs reflecting the complexities, joys and pains of finite, human love. But Rachel Z, one of the most exciting and stylistically diverse keyboardists in contemporary jazz, has a more vast, eternal kind of love in mind. Not surprisingly for an artist with such eclectic tastes, Rachel Z tackles the musical side of her spiritual growth with a pointed shift from the acoustic jazz trio approach of her previous album A Room of One's Own to a funkier, modern electronic mindset focused on the playfulness and eloquence of the acoustic piano. From the choice to do a lively reworking of Alanis Morrisette's "Head Over Feet" to blending hip-hop grooves with a soaring vocal chant and chimes on the hypnotic and exotic "Like the Rivers Flow," Z's focus is applying her own spiritual transformation in the wake of her divorce to the universal love which connects us all. Other highlights on 1998's best smooth jazz album are "Tears 4 Your Love," a cool funk jam out of the Miles Davis tradition pairing her with Chris Botti's sassy trumpet; and the classically influenced "Walk on Water," which builds a simple, sax-driven melody by Najee over a heartbeat-like rhythmic thump. She's better known for her fusion associations, but smooth jazz could use more inventive infusions like this.

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