When I first heard that Michelle Rosewoman would be playing in a piano shop, I expected her in a small, dusty showroom with pianos clustered around her.
What I found instead on San Pablo in Oakland was a shiny showroom with gleaming pianos of many varieties, many of which cost ten to over a hundred thousand dollars. A side benefit to the splendid sea of pianos surrounding us is that it also meant that Michelle had a Fazioli, one of the world's most expensive pianos to play.
Michelle is an Oakland native who moved to New York when she was 28. Earlier, she had been greatly influenced by pianist and organist Ed Kelly, whom she regards as an unsung legend of jazz and was to praise during her performance. As befitting someone who has been intrigued by Cuban music since her youth, and one who has led the 14-piece ensemble New Yor-Uba, Michelle Rosewoman began the evening with "Elegua," an invocation to the Yoruba deity.
She followed this with a dynamic solo set which included "The Thrill Of," the classic "Body and Soul," "Everytime We Say Goodbye," "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game," and a medley of Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Mood" and "Ask Me Now."
Her rhythym section (accomplished bassist Aaron Germain and drummerJeff Marrs) then joined her for a prayer to Oshun which was followed by tunes such as "From Tear to Here." "The Inside Out," the sung ballad "With a Need for Each Other," "In a Mood", and "Where it Comes From."
Throughout it all, Michelle never failed to engage the audience with her percussive, mellifluent, and passionate playing which melds avant-garde jazz with funk and Cuban influences. If you have the opportunity, infuse your ears with the magic that she is able to conjure up with her fingertips.
And be sure to check out the Piedmont Piano Company, which features concerts once or twice per week. Engaging bassist Germain has one CD of his innovative compositions out, while drummer Jeff Marrs performs with a variety of local ensembles, including Marcus Shelby's, around the San Francisco Bay Area. http://www.aarongermain.com/live/