Think Somewhere over the Rainbow has been done to death yet? You couldn't be more wrong 'cause Michelle Pollace kicks off New Beginnings with a Brazilianized version that interpolates Guaraldi and Brubeck, dancing the old standby through the county fair in a spring dress of pastel colors and high spirits. Her version even makes one wonder why no one's tackled it in this fashion before. All along, the song was a natural for improv, and we never even knew it. In fact, though the ground level in New Beginning is south of the border in its samba, rumba, and other manifestations, I'm highly reminded of Ahmad Jamal's, Charles Lloyd's, and others' old canons of work.
Pollace's approach is effervescent, sprightly, but perfectly weighted throughout, and with lots of clever squibs and ornaments, her backing band keeping things lively even in the initially balladic numbers (the title song and elsewhere) that inevitably get frisky and start romping around. The number that most struck me, though, was Forro, named after the NorthEastern Brazilian style, which is more structurally complex than I'd expected be yet light and airy, bouncing along like a gazelle in the altiplano (okay, okay, that's a mixed metaphor in more ways than one, but it does sound like a gamboling gazelle, a springbok, a blackbuck; do they have any of those in South America?). La Comparsa contains tango and bolero elements, and Kristen Strom's soprano sax comes across like Stanley Turrentine in an especially reflective mood…that soon turns more extroverted.
And that's not a bad adjective for this CD: extroverted. Melancholy is a distant bell, clouds do not gather overhead, and the blues have been officially cancelled for another day, pushed much further into the month, maybe even the end of the year. Maybe never. Even the moody First Flight first shines in contemplation then gets up and treads terra firma like a ballet dancer with a good backbeat in her soul, a cut Joe Zawinul would've been proud to have written (with Klaus Doldinger looking over his shoulder). Yep, no matter where you go in New Beginning, get ready to smile because Ms. Pollace, recently a mother and not about to dwell in the dark, is beaming and wants everyone to catch that most welcome virus.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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