Pushing ‘PLAY’ on the CD player transports the listener immediately to Copacabana Beach, conjuring up images of sipping a caipirinha in Brazilian paradise. It is really no accident that Anne Walsh invokes such visions of a tropical paradise. She’s had a sort of infatuation with the world of Latin rhythms "since I was a little girl going to a friend’s house and listening to the music," Walsh recalls. "The language itself is infectious," she says. "(The rest is) listening to the music and getting your body to feel the rhythm. Once you find yourself there, it all falls into place."
While Walsh’s debut album could be considered the culmination of a long time love affair with the music of Brazil, it is much more than that. Pretty World is a collection of songs about life and all its glory. "Pretty World is like a vacation," she says. "This CD, to me, is about the complexities of life lost loves the beauty around us."
"Pretty World’ is also Walsh’s way of paying homage to some of her favourite composers and music, which defines her as a singer and as a person. "I love Cole Porter and "In The Still of The Night" is one of my favorite songs," Walsh says. The album also features songs by contemporary musicians like Suzanne Vega and Kevyn Lettau, as well as compositions by Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett and Dan Grolnick that were given original lyrics by Joe DeRenzo.
The CD also features the Rogers and Hammerstein classic "My Favorite Things," albeit with lyrics translated to Portuguese by Rogerio Jardim. While the collection may seem eclectic at first, Walsh points out that, when she looks for songs to sing, she wants "something that defines me. I don’t like songs that are one dimensional. I like layers." That is exactly what she finds in the music of Brazil and in composers like Sergio Mendes, who wrote the title track and "Chove Chuva," and Antonio Carlos Jobim. "In (Jobim’s) "Waters Of March," there are so many layers. It’s a delightful song."
A native of Massachusetts, Walsh was exposed to music from an early age. Through her father Frank, who sang with many local light opera companies, she discovered the American masters. The large Brazilian population of her hometown awakened her to the distinctive Latin-jazz rhythms and ignited the passion for the music of Brazil ‘66 and other great musicians from the South American country.
In the years that followed, Walsh attended Anna Maria College after high school and studied voice and music therapy. "I received my degree for my parents’ peace of mind," she muses in her bio. While the degree gave Walsh the proverbial "something to fall back on," it was not what she wanted to do and Walsh headed west to pursue a career as a performer.
The duality that is the West-Coast life for anyone searching a career in the entertainment industry became part of Walsh’s ritual. By day, she applied her degree in helping people through music therapy. At night, it was off to club circuit in search of a venue to showcase her singing talent.
She enrolled at Orange Coast College, after a brief stint as vocalist for a classic rock band, and it was there her audition impressed the head of the jazz department and she was invited to join his class and sing with a big band. It was during one of her gigs with the OCC Big Band that Brazilian music made its way back into Anne Walsh’s world.
A percussionist in the audience at one of the shows suggested Walsh should "audition for Sal at Carmello’s," which she did and was exposed to the music of Jobim, Dori Caymmi, Basia, Flora Purim and others. "The experience of singing Brazilian music gave my voice a freedom I had never known before," she says.
Despite the fact she had found her niche in music, Walsh also felt that she had to pursue her education and went on to receive her master’s degree in music at Cal State Long Beach, where she trained in the bel canto style under Marvelee Cariaga. "Opera is a huge endeavour. I strengthened my voice in ways I could not have imagined," and allowed her to perform in Mozart operas and Broadway classics like Music Man and The Sound Of Music. But still the passion for Latin music burned inside and Walsh landed a gig with a quintet, where she met pianist Tom Zink, her husband and producer.
Walsh was enjoying her life singing with a jazz band and teaching voice at the American Music and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles. But there was something missing." Tom and I wanted to work more together," she says of her husband of 13 years. "We are both drawn to Brazilian music and we decided we wanted to do something with that vibe." And, thus, began the groundwork for Pretty World.
From the outset of picking songs for the album, Walsh and Zink both wanted "songs that were not only great lyrically, but had great harmonies" all of the while honoring the composers of those great songs. "As a performer of songs written by others, Tom and I felt we owed it to the music to add something unique," Walsh reflects on the 12 tracks on Pretty World. "I am drawn to songs that feel good, grove, communicate a truth, express an emotion or tell a story."
In order to be better able to better express the emotion or bring across the story of a song, it is advantageous to understand what one is singing. To better do that, Walsh decided to start learning to speak Portuguese. "A lot of singing is feeling," she continues. "It’s great to have a musical instrument, but understanding the words of a song and what the song is about allows you to better convey those feelings."I hope I do that through my singing," She laughs. "I would love to go there (Brazil) and to be accepted as a ‘native’." That is not hard to imagine if you allow Anne Walsh’s voice to be the transport to a tropical paradise.