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Nicole Zuraitis

A Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and pianist, Nicole Zuraitis combines her deep grasp of the jazz tradition with contemporary pop, rock, and R&B influences. Following her early standards albums, she showcased her bold original songs on 2013's Pariah Anthem and 2017's Hive Mind. A regular collaborator with her husband drummer Dan Pugach, together they earned a Grammy nomination for their 2019 arrangement of Dolly Parton's "Jolene." More originals and covers marked 2020's All Wandering Hearts. In 2024, she won the Grammy Award for Best Vocal Jazz Album for How Love Begins, a big-band album co-produced with bassist Christian McBride. Born in 1985 in Waterbury, Connecticut, Zuraitis grew up in nearby Litchfield where she initially loved playing sports. However, after sustaining a soccer injury she turned her efforts toward singing and playing trombone in the school band. Encouraged by her high school music director, she began singing with a local community college jazz band and participated in the Litchfield Jazz Camp. After high school, she studied classical voice at New York University and even pursued a career in opera before deciding to focus on jazz performance and songwriting. In 2008, she made her recorded debut as leader with Spread the Word, a small group standards album. An album of all-original material, Pariah Anthem, followed in 2013. Two years later, she finished as runner-up in The Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition. Along with leading her own quartet, Zuraitis has performed with a bevy of artists, including Antonio Sanchez, Veronica Swift, Benny Benack III, Cyrille Aimee, Dave Stryker, Omar Hakim, Rachel Z, Helen Sung, and Bernard Purdie, among others. She has also appeared as a featured soloist with the Savannah Philharmonic, Asheville Symphony, and Macon Pops, and sings regularly with the Birdland Big Band. When not performing, Zuraitis also teaches, having held positions on the vocal faculty at NYU, SUNY Purchase, and the Litchfield Jazz Camp. In 2017, Zuraitis released her third album and second of all-original material, Hive Mind. The album featured contributions by Zuraitis' partner drummer Dan Pugach, whom she married in 2018. Also in 2018, she again collaborated with Pugach on his Nonet album, Plus One. Included on the album was her arrangement of Dolly Parton's song "Jolene," which picked up a 2019 Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals. All Wandering Hearts, which featured her originals along with covers like "What a Wonderful World" and Prince's "I Would Die 4 U," arrived the following year. In 2023, she released How Love Begins, a large ensemble album of original compositions. Co-produced with bassist Christian McBride, it featured contributions by Pugach, guitarist Gilad Hekselman, organist Maya Kronfeld, pianist David Cook, drummer Billy Kilson, and vocal duo Sonica. It won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2024.
© Matt Collar /TiVo


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