Jazz em Portugal III :

Rui Neves, Jazz em Agosto.

The Jazz in August Festival of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, that takes place in Lisbon is a Must Stop for jazz lovers, for amateurs as well as for the specialized in the subject. Completing one cycle of 25 years, this festival presented to the Portuguese the best of what is made in the jazz world, Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor and Steve Lacy are just some of the names that already pass through its stages.

“Jazz in August” Festival exists since when ?

The festival exists since 1984 without pauses until today. In 2009 it completes a cycle of 25 years.

Is it subsidized by the General Direction of Arts ?

No, given that is an initiative of Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (CGF), from our Music Department, endowed with the appropriate budget that makes face to all needs.

How the idea of this initiative appears ?

It was a initiative of Madalena Perdigăo, disappeared in 1989, she was the creator of the Music Department of CGF and of the Gulbenkian Orquestra, founder and director of the Acarte Service from the CGF in 1983. Beginner in 2006 of the Jazz in August festival, after the extinction of Acarte, into which was integrated, it began to integrate the music department.

Does the foundation count with some partners, apart from the state, who supports the production / communication of the “Jazz in August" festival ?

The associate partners are essentially strategic and logistics as Lufthansa / Swiss Air connections and the Lisboa-Açores hotel. For Media exposure, as SIC – Noticias (news tv). Whereas the association with the Tourism of Lisbon, besides Media exposure in their network, they supports also some flights for international journalists / critics, this is the only financial practical aspect in the production.

How is it made the programmings, which are the criteria to choose the musicians, the groups ? What you have in mind while making it ?

Our program is elaborated more than a year in advance and the primary criterion is the sense of discovery, searching to know innovator jazz, music in permanent evolution. Consequently, we do not passing by the commercial, more famous, conventional artists. During the process of programming we tend to think how to obtain the support from an educated public drawn to an alternative and more demanding music. This goal we were able to maintain since the beginning and that brought us the public adherence along with national and international recognition. We also are very rigorous in the sequence of the program, normally 10 or 12 concerts in a philosophy “less is more”, different from another’s festivals where the offer of concerts is bigger but irregular. The entire programme is accompanied by documentary films, conferences and colloquiums. Also, all the graphic equipments deserve great attention as well as the whole communication process, where it is used the latest digital technologies.

How does Lisbon welcome the Jazz days? Who is your public ?

Our festival is already a permanent reference in the Lisbon calendar, we have longevity. Normally we attract a middle /height class public, educated people with some knowledge of jazz, amateurs and jazz lovers of all ages and cults, also students and tourists on holidays in Lisbon, with cultural proposes. The esthetical diversity passed on by “Jazz in August” also captures publics of others musical genres: rock, classic, contemporary.

Does Portugal have any policy that supports to diffuse jazz?

The state, to be more correct, the General Direction of Arts (GDA), gives annual subsidies to jazz projects, but the biggest supports have been coming from local city councils, who subsidies several jazz festivals.

Does the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation have others initiatives related to Jazz besides the festival? I mean, does it exist any pedagogic action from your part near the schools and young people?

Yes, we have the “Descobrir” project that includes in its annual programming several jazz pedagogic actions. This project is part of the Gulbenkian Program for cultural education and is destined to schools and organized groups, which are invited to attend our concerts extended from October to September of the next year. Until now this initiative have total acceptance.

Do you believe that Jazz in Portugal is still very mystified? What I mean is, if you believe there’s still no great knowledge of jazz music and jazz musicians ?

The jazz made by Portuguese musicians is in real expansion, you can see that in the work of several groups and by our own jazz stars like Bernardo Sassetti and Mário laginha. This is a consequence of the globalisation of the musical taste and also of the augmentation of the number of jazz schools in our country after the opening in 1980 of the Hot Club Jazz School. Today it is, also, studied jazz grammar and syntax in the universities and exists several young musicians that have studied in New York and Boston (United States of America) while others prefer European jazz schools to complete their studies.

It amplifies the knowledge of Portuguese jazz reality as well as expanding the concert network. In fact today it exist a deeper consciousness of what is being a jazz musician in Portugal. However, the Portuguese jazz still don’t have a distinct identity like we can observe in countries like France, Germany, United Kingdom, Nederland, Italy, Belgium, Norwegian, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, where the jazz language is developed and has a visible identity. Nevertheless I think it’s only a matter of time for us to get there.

Interview by Isabel Viegas (june 2009)


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