Salleh & Strazz, A Taste of Brazil

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Anna Salleh and Guy Strazz will bring the emotion and passion of Brazilian music to the Mid North Coast on their upcoming tour. With powerful vocals and sublime guitar mastery, this duo is a perfect match …

Hi Anna. When we last spoke, you were touring around the Mid North Coast in 2015. How much did you enjoy this experience, and what type of feedback did you receie?

The band and I got a lot of love from audiences in 2015. They were literally dancing in the street at 5 Church Street in Bellingen, and the Port Macquarie Glasshouse staff said people were coming in the next day just to tell them how much they enjoyed the show.

The tour also played a key role in getting the band studio ready for my latest album, which was done – old school style – in one day, with just one or two takes of each tune. In fact, the album’s cover images were taken during the Mid North Coast tour! [http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/annasalleh2]

Remind us again why you love the music of Brazil so much ...

The combination of syncopated African rhythms, melancholic yet uplifting melodies, poetic lyrics and jazzy harmonies are a winning combination, as far as I’m concerned. This music has such broad appeal – it seems to speak to the heart, whatever your age, and no matter what walk of life you are from.

You’re touring again, this time with brilliant guitarist Guy Strazz. How did you and Guy meet and discover your shared passion for Brazilian music?

Even though I discovered bossa nova as a child, and I got a guitar for my 12th birthday, it was only in the past 10 years I learnt how to play Brazilian music.

I started off teaching myself from a book, but then a friend recommended I get some lessons from Guy Strazz. Guy is an award-winning guitarist, composer and recording artist, who is well known for his albums and collaborations with artists as diverse as Slava Grigoryan, Ashok Roy, Dale Barlow and Vince Jones.

Instead of using Google and Facebook to track down Guy, I went to one of his gigs – the hit musical Keating! at Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre. I wasn’t able to catch him after the show, but I did write a note for him with my number on the back of a coaster and left it withn the barman to pass on to him. The rest is history!

I wasn’t the most diligent guitar student – since my singing has always distracted me from becoming a guitar hero. But Guy taught me a lot – about stagecraft, as much as anything else. Lessons were a real conversation, and this good communication laid the foundation for what has now become a partnership.

Like me, Guy has also had a life-long love affair with Brazilian music and encouraged me to go to Brazil – which, as I’m fond of saying – is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life  [http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/earshot/bossa-nova-beyond-how-cult-film-inspired-my-musical-quest-to-rio/7672986].

After returning from Rio, I started performing Brazilian music in earnest, developing my show and a successful residency at Sydney’s Foundry616 jazz club. And – as Guy says – teaming up together as Salleh & Strazz was a natural evolution from all that had gone before.

Describe your new show, A Taste of Brazil. What are some of the pieces you’ll both be performing?

While bossa nova may have ended up being orchestrated for elevator music, its origins are much more minimalist and acoustic. With Salleh & Strazz, you’ll experience intimate guitar and Portuguese/English vocal versions of classics like Aguas de Marco (Waters of March), Chega de saudade (No more Blues) and A Felicidade (Happiness – from the film Black Orpheus and later made famous by singers like Astrud Gilberto).

But as Guy says, the duo has both “delicacy and power”. You’ll also be treated to lively rhythmic samba, playful of Choro (an instrumental-based Rio de Janeiro music style that came before samba), some Afro-samba, a haunting ballad about the “flower and the thorn” by one of the most important singer/composers of Brazilian samba, Nelson Cavaquinho, and even some music from Cape Verde, sung by the late great Cesária Évora. All this, topped off with a sprinkling of new and pre-loved glorious non-Brazilian ballads and cheeky swing tunes. “We unravel the songs, adding colourful nuances so that they become interpretations as opposed to covers,” says Guy.

What type of vibe or atmosphere do you feel you both manage to capture on stage? 

The mix of repertoire in the show, the different moods, and the way we approach the music is guaranteed to entertain and engage the audience. Learning the songs has brought with it strong experiences of joy, sorrow, irreverence or beauty that are now a part of me. I see my work as a musician and performer as interpreting and channelling these feelings to audiences – no matter what language I sing in.

What do you think are your individual strengths as performers?

I think Guy puts it best: “Our rapport with the audience is based on the understanding and feeling of the music. Anna’s range of emotions is clearly a feature of the show, as are Guy’s multiple guitar skills and engaging solos”.

Your Mid North Coast tour will take in Kemspey, Wauchope and Taree. What are you most looking forward to about these gigs?

We’re looking forward to staying with the locals and connecting with as many of you as possible – both on and off stage. And, of course we’d love to have full houses all the way – so see you at a show and tell your friends!

• Oddfellows Hotclub, Kempsey, 17 Feb, 7:30pm.

• Wauchope Arts, 18 Feb, 8pm.

• Wild Fig Café, Taree, 19 Feb, 2pm.

What’s next in the pipeline for you both, after you finish this tour?

We will be taking A Taste of Brazil to as many parts of Australia as we can get to, evolving as we go, and when we’re ready I’d like to do some more recording!

Where can we find out more about you both, or more details about upcoming shows?

The best way to find out more is to check us out online and join our mailing list at www.sallehandstrazz.com – there are links to our individual websites from the duo site as well.

Thanks Anna and Guy.

Photos by David Brazil.

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