Trem Azul, in its four fields of activity, has made a remarkable path, a growth that unfolds a great deal of work, was it hard to arrive until here?
No, it was a gradual and very natural growth. It is obvious that it gave and gives a lot of work but it wasn’t difficult.
What made you create Trem Azul in 2001? How did emerged the idea, the opportunity ?
We felt that there was space for a project like this. When I say this I don’t mean that there were space in Portugal, what I mean is there was a global space to appear a record company with our characteristics. Always was part of our idea to create a contemporary jazz label with the presence of foreign musicians, that is, to operate in a global scale. Like it doesn’t make any sense to have a label and not make the distribution, direct sell and bring here the artists, the cycle closed itself. But not completely there’s still margin to one day open the Trem Azul Jazz Club.
How did Cleen Feed born, grew up and became the success that it is today?
It was born in 2001 with the idea of occupying the open space of a record label operating internationally like no other, gathering musicians from different places, associated with exemplar graphics. Portugal, contrarily to what it might look, is the ideal place for an extensive label like Clean Feed. From here you can appreciate what’s happening in New York, Chicago, Stockholm, Oslo, Paris, Brussels, Vienne, etc. A record Label settled in a town / city where the jazz circuit is not so developed allow us to see better what’s happening around the world. We are not blind to what’s happening here and we are paying attention to what’s happening outside.
In your Web site you speak about Trem Azul Distribution like the mother of the enterprise, what is it exactly, how does it work?
That was before ! At one point it was the distribution that supported the edition. In our days with the economic crisis installed the record sales lost its strength and distribution represents a lot less in our enterprise that it did a few years ago.
You make the Thursdays of Jazz in the Belém Cultural Centre ; do you consider it a success? How does the public react ?
The Thursdays of Jazz are a success for the acceptance of the public, we have a full house every week, and our public has improved in quality every year. The groups that we propose are not the most mainstream, but our public knows what to aspect, they listen and understand the meaning of things. I can say that this cycle success allow us to present a more contemporary program within what we defend like vital music inside jazz and improvisation.
Who is your public ? Not only in the Belém Cultural Centre but in all concerts you organize.
It’s a sensible public, interested in the sound of surprise, like one day somebody wisely called jazz.
Do you think that in Portugal jazz is still mystified? I mean, do you think that it’s still destined to small elites and not to the general public? Does it exist a Jazz Tradition, so to speak...
One of my struggles thought the years has been and still is to transcend that mystification. To me it makes no sense to look at jazz like an elitist music, jazz is a music open to everyone that as a open mind, open spirit. I look at jazz like intervention music and, because of that, linked with the times we live on. In our country exists a strong musical tradition. People like music and look for new things incessantly. They like to know new things.
How do you characterize the jazz panorama in Portugal?
Jazz in Portugal as known a remarkable evolution. In our days there are many schools of and with jazz, plenty of musicians better prepared than some years ago and a public interested to listen to them. When I say some years ago, I’m talking about 10 / 15 years ago, I don’t mean 30 or 40 years ago. Things have changed substantially in the last few years and if all goes well they’ll keep changing.
Is there any politic support to the diffusion and education of jazz ?
No. But there are many people in this circuit that contribute in one way or another for the diffusion of jazz in Portugal. We have an excellent specialized magazine, jazz.pt, several record labels that put in the market jazz and improvised music (Clean Feed, Creative Sources and Tone of a Pitch), and a lot of jazz festivals, some of them of the most interesting in the world (Jazz em Agosto) and we still have space in the national news papers.
Does Trem Azul receive any subvention? From the Ministry of Culture or other ?
In Portugal there are several festivals spread thought out the country and also small events punctually organized, which one would you recommend the international public to visit? Which one among all haves the best program ?
The Jazz em Agosto from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon is a must stop in the international jazz panorama. After there are others festivals with a excellent level, Braga Jazz; Seixal Jazz; Jazz ao Centro, in Coimbra, Portalegre, Guimarães...
In your opinion, what is the contribution of the Hot Club Portugal to the Portuguese jazz panorama ?
The Hot Club has two activities, the club and the school. The Club has a essential role, it is one of the few places where you can ear jazz every week, with a diverse programming. The school has been losing way with the appearance of others schools more dynamic, it’s a shame because it can even lead to the closing of the most historical jazz school of the country.
Which are the Portuguese young musicians that you would point out ?
In the last few years have been appearing several jazz musicians, some studying in Portugal (ESMAE of Porto makes a remarkable work) and others studying abroad, first there was an obsession for the Americans schools (New School and Berklee) but now seems like it disappeared and the Europeans Schools (Brussels, Amsterdam and Specially Rotterdam) have gain weight and in our days form a great number of very interesting musicians: João Lobo; Gonçalo Almeida; Dezidério Lázaro, Júlio Resende, João Firmino, João Hasselberg, Luís Candeias, António Quintino, José Pedro Coelho, João Guimarães, Luís Figueiredo, are some of the musicians who promise to turn the Portuguese jazz around.
Who are the biggest Portuguese Jazz musicians ?
The giants of the Portuguese jazz are Bernardo Sassetti, Mário Laginha, Carlos Barretto, João Paulo Esteves, Maria João, Carlos Martins, Carlos Bica and more recently André Fernandes, Júlio Resende, Nelson Cascais.
Interview by Isabel Viegas (june 2009)