Manhattan-born and raised Rachel Nicolazzo began voice lessons at two, started classical piano lessons at seven and attended the opera by age nine. Listening to Herbie Hancock's harmonies over Wayne Shorter’s compositions helped her bridge the gap from her classical training to jazz.
Rachel Z graduated from the New England Conservatory with a 'Distinction in Performance' award while working professionally in the Boston area with performers like Bob Moses, Miroslav Vitous and George Garzone. Returning to New York in 1988, she toured with jazz saxophonist Najee. While performing and recording steadily with the classic fusion band Steps Ahead from 1988 through 1996, she also worked with Al Di Meola, Larry Coryell, Special EFX, and Angela Bofill, and began a fruitful association with producer/vibraphonist Mike Mainieri. Mainieri produced her Columbia Records debut Trust the Universe in 1993.
Rachael later played piano on Wayne Shorter’s hit comeback album High Life and served as musical director for the tour that followed. The CD won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. 1996 also saw the release of her NYC Records debut A Room of One’s Own.
Rachel returned to acoustic music, in an all-female trio setting, with On the Milky Way Express, her well-received tribute to Wayne Shorter, in 2000.