Christian McBride co-produces new album with vocalist, pianist, and composer Nicole Zuraitis: How Love Begins…
Outside In Music is thrilled to announce the release of How Love Begins, the provocative new release from jazz singer songwriter and vocal/instrumental powerhouse Nicole Zuraitis. Co-produced by bass luminary Christian McBride, How Love Begins is an ardent, vulnerable and relatable meditation on modern love that solidifies the GRAMMY nominated Zuraitis’ stature as one of the pre-eminent songwriters of our time. Alongside Zuraitis’ soaring vocals and pianistic refrains, How Love Begins features the aforementioned Christian McBride on the bass, Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Maya Kronfeld on organ, Wurlitzer and Rhodes, and Dan Pugach on drums. The album also features special guests David Cook on piano, Billy Kilson on drums and Sonica – a co-led vocal trio comprised of Thana Alexa, Julia Adamy and Zuraitis.
“Perhaps this album should have been called “How Love Begins… and Ends,”” Zuraitis says wryly, commenting on the duality she distinctly presents in the two-part structure of the release. To illustrate the many phases of love, she divides her 10-track collection in halves titled ‘part I: oil’ and ‘part II: water’. This format, which verifies the idea that “opposites attract”, embodies a story of romance initially blessed with harmony yet eventually plagued with discord.
Propelled by the notion that the polarity of love can often be coincidental, Zuraitis conceptualized ‘Oil’ and ‘Water’ spontaneously after a visceral reaction she had to the work of Spanish conservation photographer Daniel Beltrá. She stumbled upon his collection “Spill”, which at first glance looked to her like paintings with beautiful color patterns created from the brush of an artist. “When I learned that the stunnings works of art, with their swirling colors and perfectly placed hues, were actually aerial photographs of the most devastating oil spill in history, my heart sank,” she describes. “The irony was not lost on me. Just like a love that ends too soon, the common thread is that some of the most beautiful things in life can also be the most heartbreaking.”
The Deep Water Horizon oil spill destruction combined with the beautiful scope of Beltrá’s imagery struck a chord with Zuraitis. In effect, How Love Begins efforts to depict the all-encompassing journey of modern love, including the beauty of taking chances, the complexity of desire, the fragility of emotion, the blemishes left when chapters close and the long standing optimism of starting anew. The album was conceived between Zuraitis and Christian McBride in 2021 after several years of dreaming about collaborating. The musical partners first crossed paths at the Red Eye Grill in New York City where Zuraitis had a longstanding residency, 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 come 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,” shares Christian McBride. “I’m putting big, big money on Nicole. I can’t wait to see her career explode.”
Musically, How Love Begins pays homage to many of Zuraitis’ favorite songwriters from Tin Pan Alley to today. Similar to the great composers of yesteryear, Zuraitis succeeded in composing material that is raw and relatable, with the potential of living on for generations. “I don’t want to be the only person singing these songs I write” she adds, fervently insisting that her goal is for jazz enthusiasts and professionals alike to add her songs to their repertoire.
The first section of How Love Begins, ‘part I: oil’, places the listener in a musical depiction of the thunderous excitement of a new flame that is just beginning, with slippery twists and turns. In “The Good Ways,” Zuraitis warns “You’re simply dangerous, like shock waves” and later “A little heat, a lot of spice / mysterious, never plays nice.” The adventure continues with “Travel” on which a broad, cinematic soundscape is presented by the rhythm section over which Zuraitis’ vocals soar, seemingly bursting with the desire to maintain the listeners autonomy and freedom.
She explores the vicissitudes of daydreams in her arrangement of the Debussy classic “Reverie” which has original lyrics penned by Zuraitis that meditate on how the mind grows occupied with “undeniable whirlpools of fantasy.” “Let Me Love You” is a poetic highlight with Zuraitis wrestling with the question: “Will you ever let me love you?” and later “Does this game ever end?” We’ve all been there before. But at least now we have a song that keeps us company.
The final piece of “part I” is “Burn” – an up-tempo and brisk jaunt, beginning with a notable counterpoint between Zuraitis and McBride. The band enters leading to a stellar guitar solo. Hekselman glides through the progression with angular lines, followed by McBride with a punchy, walking solo. The final lyric “I think i’ll finally try a new romance” conveniently sets the listener up for part II, though trepidation lurks.
Beginning the second section, ‘part II: water”, listeners dive into the deep with “Two Fish” where Zuraitis admires, “how great, the depth of their love”, painting a picture of storybook endings. The feel-good but filled with disquieting subtext of “Well Planned, Well Played” outlines a recipe for modern love, featuring “caffeine and affirmations”, despite being “deeply overwhelmed.” The album takes an emotional spiral with two thought-provoking numbers: “20 Seconds” and “Like Dew”. Ominous lyrics like “Alarm bells ring a warning sound” and “change flows like blood to the heart, while we’re growing further apart” set the scene. Though the fire was lit in part I, allusions to tears and water insinuate flames turning to smoke. “The Garden” comes full circle with melancholic optimism and acceptance, with the hope of starting again.
“If you listen a moment past the final track you may find faint glimmers of hope for the future, saved for a rainy day,” Zuraitis insinuates.
Following the July 7, 2023 international release of How Love Begins, the vocalist and composer has two major release performances coinciding with months of national release touring which will continue throughout the summer and fall. She will be producing a large-scale album release concert at Park City Music Hall in CT on July 8th, 2023 titled Siren Songs- For the Love of the Sound; a day of activism and musical festival benefiting Save the Sound.Org, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting climate change and protecting the Long Island Sound estuary, rivers and its wildlife. Additionally, on September 4, 2023, Zuraitis will have her official New York City album release party at Birdland with special guests Christian McBride and Gilad Hekselman at upstairs at 7pm. More details and ticket links can be found at www.nicolezmusic.com.