Eight original themes and two arrangements of jazz and
Afro-Cuban songs make up this Latin jazz work created by
pianist Michelle Pollace and produced by the same Michelle
and Rebeca Mauleon, a recognized Latin music expert,
pianist, and educator. This musical production gives
Michelle the opportunity to take a new step in her career as
a solo bandleader. Previously she was the co-leader of a
Latin jazz fusion band called the Zarate Pollace Project
with guitarist and songwriter Abel Zarate.
This soft jazz and sentimental album starts with the
well-known standard “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, a song
that you could classify as a cool jazz song, free bolero,
cha cha cha or simply Latin jazz tumbao; this theme is all
in one because Michelle subtly gets the perfect mix in each
piano line accompanied by the metrical and colorful
percussion, and the precision of the bass sound.
What I like about this album is the cadence, swing, and softness Michelle puts into her interpretation. This is all about the awareness of her fingers’ feeling over the black and white piano keys. Michelle’s playing is the game of touching and perceiving the piano hammer pulse of each key in the time of the music. A good example of Michelle’s musical awareness in Latin jazz is “La Comparsa”, the unforgettable Ernesto Lecuona’s Cuban song, where the dialog between the instrument and Mrs. Pollace is magical, producing a crescendo in rhythm and feeling.
As I mentioned before Michelle co-led the Zarate Pollace
Project. This project was part of the musical contributions
of many Bay Area luminaries, including John Santos, Michael
Spiro, and others to realize its musical blend of jazz,
Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban styles live and on the debut CD Soul
Redemption (2005). Mrs. Pollace was an orchestra
member in Lou Harrison’s internationally renowned Gamelan Si
Betty, a keyboardist for Chepito Areas (Santana’s original
percussionist and arranger), a chorus member in the Gilbert
& Sullivan theater company, and a bassist for a grunge
band, among other important musical projects. She is also
co-author of Musicreation, a book about music-instruction
Michelle has a wonderful musical career, one where the
listener can see her commitment to jazz and other rhythms.
It seems to be that she always plays with committed
musicians and this album is not an exception. New
Beginning displays the talents of great musicians
including David Belove on bass; Phil Hawkins on drums;
Carlos Caro and Michaelle Goerlitz on percussion; Rebeca
Mauleon on chimes, clave and chekeré; and the
saxophonist Kristen Strom as guest soloist.
If you want to experience the sentimental saudade of Latin
jazz with a pinch of funky beat, listen to “Ondas Do Mar”
(Waves of Sea) and you will be moved from your daily place
to an unknown world where you will be able to play and jump
as Michelle does with her instrument.