"Pollace’s music overflows with a strong artistic command, an authentic connection to the source material, and an infectious sense of cool...." -- Chip Boaz, Latin Jazz Corner, Album of the Week
"Pianist Michelle Pollace has a strong commanding presence on New Beginning. Like a baker, she has a way of gently whipping rhythms until they are cohesive and taut. ... Pollace digs in on every track, and songs like 'Forro' and 'Bright Eyes' evolve into mini-suites." -- Marc Myers, JazzWax, CD Discoveries of the Week
"As we search for the best new music on WEMU, we will often feature someone you’ve never heard before but think is worth your time. Pianist Michelle Pollace, who we premiered this morning on 89.1 Jazz, is one such artist. ... This disc has [a] crucial component of good Latin jazz -- it is loads of fun!" -- Linda Yohn, WEMU 89.1 FM music director
Michelle's latest CD, "New Beginning," expresses her love of both jazz and Latin rhythms, inspired particularly by the small piano-centric combos of Michel Camilo, Hilton Ruiz, and, in his explorations of Latin jazz, McCoy Tyner. 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.”
Michelle's arrangements of jazz, Brazilian, and Afro-Cuban standards are original, and her own compositions honor the roots of the music while adding a new voice. New Beginning has garnered accolades as well as airplay on around 200 satellite, public, and college radio stations, plus made the “most added releases” list in JazzWeek. The CD features some of the San Francisco Bay Area's top-call musicians -- producer Rebeca Mauleon; David Belove on bass; Phil Hawkins on drums; Carlos Caro and Michaelle Goerlitz on percussion; and saxophonist Kristen Strom.
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.