With her long black tresses, leather pants, and platform heels, Rachel Z is a hottie. Which is how she made her name on the commercially viable "smooth jazz" circuit in the early '90s. But the Manhattan-born pianist not only looks good; she can also play. And in the long run, that's what counts. So she set out to prove herself by teaming up with her hero, former Miles Davis sidekick and saxophone titan Wayne Shorter, on his 1995 comeback album, High Life, which won the Grammy that year for Best Contemporary Jazz Album. Her reputation cemented, Z could take on any project she wished. Naturally, she went where the money was, releasing mildly creative jazz-lite records, performing with high-profile all-girl groups, and touring with Peter Gabriel. On her latest CD, the pianist improvises on cool pop songs like Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun," proving once again that she's got the skills, the sensibility, and the look to steal the spotlight, which she'll be bathed in when she takes the stage at Pearl's on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 27-28; call 291-8255 or go to www.jazzatpearls.com.
-- Sam Prestianni