CD Review

by Oscar Montagut, Latin Jazz Net

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 method.

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.

READ original review here.
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Songs from Michelle's latest CD, "New Beginning." Offer valid for a limited time.

Michelle Pollace - New
                                    Beginning CD cover