All Wandering Hearts
All Wandering Hearts is Grammy® nominated vocalist, pianist, composer and arranger Nicole Zuraitis’ fourth album as a bandleader and it explores the raw emotions and tribulations of life on the road as a full-time musician. Listeners will take a journey through genre-bending jazz-adjacent soundscapes that are both complex and lyrical. Delving into themes of love, loss, and exploration, the album is an insight into the experience of the creative mind in today’s socio-political climate. Alongside Nicole, the album features an all-star cast of New York City-based musicians including Idan Morim on guitar, Dan Pugach on drums, Alex Busby Smith on bass, Carmen Staaf on the Rhodes and organ, Thana Alexa on vocals, Elise Testone on vocals and Chase Potter on strings. It appears that the release has been delayed a couple of times due to the pandemic.
The album has seven Zuraitis originals, and three unique arrangements of classic songs. She addresses the major issues that working artists face on the road such as maintaining their mental and physical health, homesickness, relationship woes, coping with death, social media burnout, exhaustion, mercurial emotions and the constant worry of making ends meet. “With this diversion into the songwriting world, I wanted to pay homage to my jazz roots and the great American songbook,” Zuraitis notes.
She opens dynamically with her “Make it Flood,” a beautifully vulnerable proclamation of hope with the stunning interplay of this steadfast rhythm section and Nicole’s warm, virtuosic vocal stylings. “The Way Home is a poignant song about loss, and at once is a reminder to “find your way home” when you’re feeling lost. Stellar guitar-work from Idan Morim and string playing from Chase Potter surround Nicole’s assured refrains. “Overdrive Mind,” which features Nicole’s elegant piano, echoes the voices of many who find solace in escaping from harsh realities and the constant pressures that one puts on themselves through secluding oneself. The track speaks to mental health woes that can be associated with the lifestyle of the modern-day musician, but also makes a much larger message about the stigma of mental health in our culture. And, some may read in the self-isolation of this viral pandemic, which, of course, was not effect, when Nicole wrote the tune. The tune ends in a cacophony of sounds – keyboards and guitars creating that ‘overdrive’ effect.
Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” is requisitely rife with pop flourishes as is her own “Rock Bottom” while “Gold” is a contemplative piano-driven ballad showcasing the pure beauty of her voice. “Father Figure” is a complex tune with wonderful harmonies from Alexa and Testone as well as inventive guitar from Morim. It’s a tune that has elements of jazz, rock, and pop somehow held together by her husband Pugach’s insistent beats. The weird vending machine sounds that introduce “Sugar Spun Girl” are quickly explained with her opening line “There’s a candy machine in my head.” The tune alternates between smooth passages and those quirky sounds, making it a bit hard to embrace without a few listens. Nonetheless, they carried the motif all the way through and must have had lots of fun in the process. Fittingly the album ends with her alone at the piano for the soothing “Lullaby.”
Her other two new arrangements of classic songs also speak to the album’s overarching themes of travelling, both abroad and inward. “Send Me On My Way,” with its tricky syncopation, is another song chronicling an inner journey, originally written and recorded by 90’s rock band Rusted Root gets a soulful makeover by Zuraitis, who delivers perhaps here strongest vocal of any track. “What a Wonderful World” written by Bob Thiele and George David Weiss, popularized by Louis Armstrong, gets a stripped down solemn treatment made particularly impactful given the devastating (and now polarizing) effect of the virus on the country’s current socio-political climate. Nicole laments “What a Wonderful World used to be such a hopeful song for me; but the current world climate both physically and politically, makes the song translate as pure melancholy. But the intention of hope is still there.”
This is far more interesting than the bulk of so-called jazz vocal albums, due to Nicole’s musicianship, her willingness to take some chances, and her infusion of other genres into her singular sound.
- Jim Hynes
More Information About the Artist:
As a bandleader, a recording artist and the premiere vocalist of the world famous Birdland Big Band among other notable ensembles, Nicole has established herself as a staple on the New York City Jazz scene and has made a significant mark on the global modern jazz landscape. This musical chameleon brings creative ingenuity and her signature warmth to a wide array of genres and styles. Nicole’s stunning vocal prowess paired with her facility on the piano and her talent as a consummate entertainer prove that she is anything but your average jazz singer.
In 2019, Nicole’s illustrious career blossomed even further when her and her husband, renowned drummer and bandleader Dan Pugach, were dually nominated for a Grammy® for their arrangement of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Nicole’s critically acclaimed 2018 release, Hive Mind (Dot Time Records) earned the title of ‘Best Jazz Album’ in the 2018 International Music and Entertainment Awards. In 2015, Nicole was the second runner-up in the illustrious Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition and won the Herb Alpert ASCAP Young Composer Award in 2014. In addition, Zuraitis has assembled an all-star female ensemble to record her project Generations of Her – Women Songwriters and Lyricists of the Last 100 Years. While not leading her own ensembles, Nicole performs and tours extensively with her husband’s renowned ensemble, the Dan Pugach Nonet.