"Nice! Excellent CD." — Mark Levine, Latin-jazz pianist/composer ("Linda Chicana") and author (The Jazz Piano Book, The Jazz Theory Book) regarding Michelle’s latest CD, “New Beginning”
“Michelle Pollace is a very gifted pianist and composer. Her original compositions shine with heart and beauty.” — Mari Hall, visual artist and music commentator, 2012
“Michelle Pollace is a dream keyboardist for any guitarist and/or horn player, but stands on her own just fine. Lovely chord voicings, pulsating montunos, along with superb fusion chops on a moment’s notice; what a treat she is to hear.” — Oscar Moreno, gig review for Moonflower Cafe, July 2007
Michelle's latest CD features eight original compositions and two unique arrangements of jazz and Afro-Cuban songs. Besides showcasing Michelle Pollace on piano and keyboard, the recording displays the talents of an all-star lineup: David Belove on bass; Phil Hawkins on drums; Carlos Caro and Michaelle Goerlitz on percussion; and saxophonist Kristen Strom as guest soloist. The CD is co-produced by Michelle and Rebeca Mauleón, a recognized Latin-music expert, pianist, and educator. The disc marks Michelle’s new direction as solo bandleader (she previously co-led Latin jazz fusion band Zarate Pollace Project with hit songwriter Abel Zarate), an adventure that coincides with her foray into motherhood. These life events inspired the title “New Beginning.”
The disc's two arrangements of well-known standards were carefully chosen. "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" is a popular choice of cover song. In Michelle's case, this song has a very special connection to her family. From the CD's liner notes: "My grandfather, a professional jazz pianist, once accompanied Judy Garland when she strolled into the Chicago hotel where he played; this was one of the songs they performed. I never got to hear my grandfather play, but he remains an inspiration. Arrangement dedicated to my father—whose love of jazz led me embracing the music as well—and to the memory of my grandfather."
"La Comparsa" was similarly chosen to pay homage to masters that came before, in this case, the Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona. Michelle has a special affinity for the traditional Cuban danzon, and Lecuona's iconic composition for piano suggests the signature rhythm of the danzon, the baqueteo, throughout. On "New Beginning" Michelle rethinks the piece's harmony. The arrangement features venerable Bay Area saxophonist Kristen Strom and evolves into a rollicking, joyous descarga (jam session).
While the cover songs selected allow Michelle to honor the roots of jazz and Latin music while offering her perspective and a new creative voice, the eight original compositions (one a collaboration between Michelle and guitarist Abel Zarate) explore the theme of a new beginning.
Prior to leading her current band, Michelle co-led Zarate Pollace Project with guitarist Abel Zarate (hit songwriter for Malo and Willie Bobo). ZPP enlisted the musical contributions of many Bay Area luminaries, including John Santos, Paul Van Wageningen, Michael Spiro, and others to realize its musical blend of jazz, fusion, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban styles both live and on the debut CD “Soul Redemption” (2005). Michelle’s diverse performance and recording credits also include orchestra member in Lou Harrison’s internationally renowned Gamelan Si Betty, keyboardist for Chepito Areas (Santana’s original percussionist and arranger), chorus member in a Gilbert & Sullivan theater company, bassist for a grunge band, and more. She is also co-author of Musicreation, a book/CD music-instruction method.