EDITION: Guimarães Jazz Annual Journal - Câmara Municipal de Guimarães/ Associação Cultural Convívio/ A Oficina     DATE: November 2011 

In the year in which we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of Guimarães Jazz, we decided to present our usual
written texts and commentaries in a different way from what was done previously. By structuring the text in the
form of a dialogue, we are seeking to focus on the subjectivity created by two people interacting, and in this
conversational back-and-forth we are able to develop a set of ideas which go beyond the topics frequently
associated with the Festival. The format which we have chosen allows for other types of questions and in so doing
we have created a broader and more dialectic-based universe of relationships for those subjects which we most
wanted to explore.

The text is divided into three parts, each of which touches on a theme relating to Guimarães Jazz: the festival, its
organization, its future, the audience, the musicians, the agents, the concerts, the various types of influences felt
within the artistic world, compromises and commitments that were established and the general problems
associated with the social and artistic operations which an event of this magnitude necessarily causes us to sit
and ponder. Participating in this Question-and-Answer session are Ivo Martins and Manuel João Neto.

                                                                                            PART I

In the published texts which document the history of Guimarães Jazz, you have insisted on the
fact that the top goal for a Programmer of an event such as this is the dissemination of jazz
music. Twenty years have passed since the first edition of the festival, and the cultural context,
the audience itself and the conditions underlying access to the music have all changed radically
since then. To what extent does this goal remain current, relevant and able to be made a reality
in the light of today’s new matrices of production, media handling and the consumption of

This objective continues to be the one we are striving to reach, yet we do know that circumstances have changed,
that today music channels on television provide more access to jazz, there are more festivals, more
concerts…Nevertheless, it is still difficult to tackle this ‘deficit situation’ with an excess of information, flood of
noise, and the various focus points or sources of stimulation pulling at us. In the past, people were split into
factions or fan groups and spread out all over; nowadays, they are less apt to commit and, in a certain way, are
“wandering nomads” enticed by the individualized experience of the moment. The public is receptive and wishes
to experience new things - it doesn’t want to be pinned down to some fixed and unmoving point on a map formed
by the various types of consumers or aficionados of jazz. We must adapt to this new playing field and understand
that there today we are less rigid and more agile: to hear Mozart or pop music together in the same space or
under like circumstances has become part of the commonplace. Cultural objects now exist all upon the same
footing and do not undergo the same force of ordering or hierarchy which might alter their intrinsic artistic
value. The most evocative aspect of culture which calls to us is that of eclecticism, with this topic bringing along
with it the concept of tolerance and showing greater faithfulness to the spirit of our time, one in which nothing is
stamped with the mark of being illegitimate. No one believes in the value judgments defined by and imposed on
us by those individuals who establish parameters and conventions based exclusively on what constitutes high-
brow and low-brow culture. Things today are more confusing as the boundary between high culture and low
culture has become muddled and the underlying rules of what makes up these two large groups are rarely
applicable. We move about in the mist of cultural events in the attempt to act with seriousness and maintain the
same dialogue because it is only in our own consistency that we can believe in the character and integrity of that
which we construct and bring to fruition. Only time can offer us the proper tools to determine whether a certain
event or action intended to have a serious and long-lasting effect will indeed legitimize and give value to the
Festival, especially when considering the context of constant uncertainty and change as well as the inherent risks
to the development of any such undertaking. With every passing day, the potential for grabbing the attention of
the public becomes more diverse and fluid. All types of information, offers and demands can be expressed and
satisfied. We must direct the message toward that infinite range of possible receptors, avoiding any mono-logic in
the content.

Is the festival still the best strategy for achieving this objective of disseminating jazz music?

As a way for getting jazz out to the public, yes, this is precisely the right format of a festival which, to our minds,
represents the greatest potential as an event. Via the public’s regular attendance at concerts, people come to
appreciate the various styles of jazz and understand how it is open to countless artistic expressions, how it can
uncover certain emotions sparked by the music, how it can help us understand the artists and their context better
and feel the depth of the performance’s intent and the aesthetic foundations bolstered by a careful reading of the
Program Notes of Guimarães Jazz and the biographies and stories they contain. This collection of information
helps us to better appreciate the artists’ work, and it is fed on the bits taken from critics and journalists. When a
jazz festival does not function well as an effective vehicle to disseminate the very music it seeks to put out to the
public, it fails to achieve any type of distinction since it has lost the slightest maneuvering room, and in being
unable to take hold of the public’s attention it fails to establish even the most meager good reputation. In other
words, what fails to be recognized as worthwhile, even slightly, can never enjoy any level of consideration, nor
can it assume any modicum of historical importance. The great seminal founding moment for jazz in Portugal
was the event “Cascais Jazz,” a pioneer in establishing the paradigm which has now become a historical
tradition, and one which has been acclaimed for its excellence as being a vehicle to present jazz performances to
a wider audience in Portugal.

A while ago you referred to the fact that people do not accept subjective value judgments from
authority figures who take cultural objects and artistic expressions and legitimize them
symbolically by ascribing hierarchical placements to them. This concept seems to contradict the
general trend lately to undervalue the role of the Mediator, in this case a Program Director or
Curator. To a certain extent, given the general atmosphere of turbulence and excess of
information out there, this phenomenon makes sense - the Mediator appears as a barometer,
someone who puts forth the guidelines that will emerge from the chaos and make order of the
present situation thinking along the lines of a particular narrative of history. As a Programming
Director, you inevitably assume this role but you seem to be affected by a certain type of tension
or discomfort.

In this very particular context of the conception, production and dissemination of the performances, I believe
that pedagogy and knowledge can be neither pre-guided nor pre-programmed. I merely try to offer a grouping of
musical moments to the public without handling them so that they produce a predetermined reaction. I am
interested in stimulating the concept free choice among the performances in the festival, and I want the public to
make choices that are different from mine. This interaction implies a separation of the shows’ production aspect
and our receiving of the symbolic product in what is communicated to us in the music that is performed. I believe
that we should keep the public’s opinion open to the forms of aesthetic emotion and artistic sensibility of jazz
without subjecting it to the criteria of commercialization and the pitfalls of mass communication. Currently, the
concept of culture has begun a fantasy-based rhetoric of the management of image and opinion to the detriment
of critical discussion, argumentation and debates based on logic….

Do you recognize that there might be a political dimension to your activities as Programming

I admit that you can read it that way, but I personally try to avoid adopting that type of posture although my
actions certainly can contain political meaning and content. Rather I perceive the word ‘political’ in a different
way, reconfiguring it with respect to notions of intervening with the public space that diverge from classical
ideological forms. In the past, politics was driven by individuals and groups which wanted to impose collective
rights onto others. People would have freedoms based on ideas formed by these groups who subjected the people
to certain types of behaviors and formatted ways of thinking, depriving the people of any expression of their own
individual and subjective idiosyncrasies. This principle was conveyed through “universalist” visions of the world
that these ideological collectives wished to change, resulting in the successive elimination of diversity and
transforming social reality into a set of homogeneous and flat behaviors. Yet stepping off from the notion of a
public arena, the idea is to creation a forum made up of a community of beings who come together as equals and
who are able to produce and reproduce opinion through the clash of ideas. Bearing this concept in mind, this
active public should build “dialogue spaces” which does not reduce the role of the audience to that of the passive
consumer. As for me, I prefer not to intervene in a visible way where other people are expressing their opinions; I
only want them to make decisions using their own freedom of choice and not mine.

Of course, the programming of the festival manifests this predisposition to dialogue. However,
you are certainly aware of the limits of this dialogue and how narrow they are and if any
programming which assumes defined artistic criteria (as Guimarães Jazz seems to have) might
run the risk of alienating possible participants in the dialogue precisely because it codifies its
discourse by taking a certain direction. For example, there is a certain sector of the public which
began following the festival from the outset, becoming more musically savvy and learning over
the years, but which now feels to some extent abandoned by the festival since some directions
taken in recent years seem to have left more exploratory music by the wayside.

This is one of the possible aspects of the festival, and I do not take this as a criticism. Let’s not forget what we are
analyzing - not the concerts themselves but the group of stages or phases we have gone through, the permanent
re-creation of the festival in the light of how we went about finding alternative solutions for what we are doing,
and therein lies the singular importance of the role of the public. The objective of our guidelines and directions is
to transform the concert into a process for knowledge and intellectual maturity which any person can assimilate,
and on multiple levels as required, thus converting itself into a new form of commitment and cooperation. Any
type of choice, in and of itself, will spark doubts in relation to the success of an event and cause a series of
dilemmas associated with the unstable foundations of experience acquired over the years. The internal debate
over what the festival will become and how to develop the various projects will be the main task for all of us over
the short-term. What is important is that we question ourselves. We must promote a certain degree of integration
and reconstruction of the situations we have learned from, and in so doing, find a strategy for the future - this is
the challenge we face. It is possible to balance the different facets of the festival, bringing things on the periphery
up to a higher level and into the flow with the center. We could also consider creating other points of attraction
within the festival directed at different audiences (perhaps younger or more knowledgeable) from those who
attend the larger concerts, coming up with more unusual, abstract, conceptual and experimental projects. It is
vital that the festival adapt to the changes around us since in the rest of the outside world, change takes place at
an enormous speed - and to assure survival you need to change.

The relationship of closeness and understanding with the public has naturally been threatened
by the growth of the festival, and this factor can compromise its flexibility and openness to

The artistic and cultural demands which have made Guimarães Jazz a complex organizational machine have also
made it more difficult to develop spontaneous personal and affective relationships among the organizers,
musicians and the public. This might well be seen as change that needs to be made as we imagine other types of
musical performances and other relationships of closeness at the various festival venues. Perhaps these changes
will not necessarily touch on the type of music being selected for the program because informal commitments
about the programming structure have already been made with audiences and at the present time this would be
difficult to alter or give up right away. Whoever goes out in search of jazz will not go away empty-handed.
Individual choices, being the consequence of each person’s free will, are simultaneously made possible and
restricted by the social and artistic structures on which our imagination is based, as well as by the social and
cultural processes whose result is one’s level of creativity. Guimarães Jazz has already attained a certain level of
perfection, complexity and technical sophistication which has allowed its fame to spread and its organizational
performance to develop dramatically. Nevertheless, this seemingly perfect position does not rule out future
problems if limits are put on the practices used by festival in the last 20 years: conversations, increased team
work, the acquiring of knowledge and skills, better performance, internal debates, questioning and essential
reflections on the festival’s reconfiguration and the ability to adapt to one’s surroundings. It is true that all
models become worn out and we should, as I have said, always be attentive and maintain a spirit that is open to
all types of change, safeguarding the notion of acquired knowledge, preparing us to make the improvements,
follow the bends and make the redefinitions of direction all necessary for the preservation of identity which is so
much under threat by a weighty and complex structure.

Some people think that the festival has become institutionalized and this has brought about
changes in the programming, and when coupled with the changes in audiences, do you see this
as something positive or negative?

There’s no reason for us to break with our paradigm in programming and to start presenting a different type of
music based on those musical currents less tied to the more classical styles of improvisation. From the outset, the
festival has sought to establish a sense of commitment with the public, and these relationships of closeness are
difficult to achieve with not all types of jazz fitting into the spirit which is an underlying facet of this implicit
agreement. To relegate the programming of Guimarães Jazz exclusively to the freer and more experimental
undercurrents in music would correspond to an arbitrary and inconsequential detour in which the festival would
no longer be what it is and people would feel totally dissatisfied with the transformation. Essentially, much
would be lost without any plausible justification. Changes cannot give legitimacy to themselves; there has to be
something which impels the festival to be responsive and sensitive to the expectations of different audiences.
When we organize a festival around a specific style, we become hostages to the obvious limitations implied by
this musical genre and the image it projects. Above all, people feel that the festival has changed. There is a
symbolic and ritualistic dimension in this, something which has been experienced and strengthened over time - a
seriousness in its criteria and presuppositions, a very strong media-based component associated with its image,
the impression and the message it communicates to the outside world. We must be aware that planning for an
auditorium which seats 300 is nothing like programming performances for a concert hall which seats 800. This
requires that we change our approach and adopt a new way of looking at the event. Yet there are two things that
are difficult to reconcile - quality and a full house - especially when viewed against a system based on “easy
entertainment” and “the competition,” which more often than not, is unfair competition. Beyond that, what is
left is respect for the established conventions for how art or music is received. Everything would be perfect if
those who regularly frequented the concerts were the utmost in jazz aficionados who enjoy the highest levels of
musical perception and communication, one where musicians are by obligation appreciated and worshipped.
Providing audiences with merely symbolic guidelines only possible in the face-to-face encounter between the
musician and the audience, we would have the simple clustering of opinions about each concert. Given its
diversity, the public operates at various speeds and has rather different experiences, and this makes it necessary
that we find the most general transversal compromises and conventions without giving up on either the integrity
or quality of the music on offer.

The perfect and symmetrical balance between these existing differences in the public appears to
be difficult to achieve. Does this imply that you take fewer risks in the programming, or in other
words, do you opt for musical performances or types or approaches that are more consensual?

No, it implies that we should have a sharper and more proportional understanding of the contexts. You cannot
take fewer risks; at the very least you are taking a different type of risk because without the audiences the festival
would lose its reason for being. That is why there is someone who, with the support of broad team of people
behind him collaborating, assesses and calculates the likelihood of a certain artist being invited to perform at the
festival within the logical framework of the event. The universe of choices before us is limited because so many
musicians have already come to play in Guimarães, because there are scheduling conflicts or budget constraints,
etc. The programming calls for management of sensitivities and expectations, a chain of subjective impressions
which involves many factors. The easiest thing might well be to randomly choose the best performances and
schedule them for whichever day is free on the calendar. The Programming Director is there to develop
relationships, to create sequences and similarities between concerts, and to organize a free and balanced line-up
which is able to fulfill hopes and expectations, thus anticipating people’s desires and preferences.

How do the programming choices of other festivals, in Portugal and abroad, interfere with this
process? In what way and to what depth or extent?

It is obvious that we should take into consideration what is going elsewhere, looking at the choices of other
competing festivals and those jazz offerings proposed by a variety of institutions. A festival defines its identity in
counterpoint to that which exists around it, with this relationship allowing the event to place itself and find itself
within its own space. We owe a debt of gratitude to the other festivals. We might well decide, for example, to
invite the more daring concerts or the lesser-known performances with more experimental aesthetics for the sake
of the future development of Guimarães Jazz and as a way to reestablish relationships with the audiences which
have stopped attending the festival. When we speak about “alternative programming,” we are referring to what
currently exists at other festivals and in other contexts on the jazz scene in Portugal, and at this point, as I have
mentioned before, it is a good thing that we conceive of the structure of our festival in contrast with what is going
on at similar events. While on the subject, I cannot help but to refer to those other jazz events programming
which turned out to be involuntarily hostile to Guimarães Jazz. It is bewildering to me how prominent
institutions in this area - ones which have financial means and power yet only sporadically put on events and do
so without any visible goals and choose disorderly musical line-ups which adhere to incomprehensible logic -
snub any other festival which publishes its goals in writing and justifies them. The lack of structure and the
infrequency of these events work to their disadvantage since they do not follow any concept of commitment, any
project, or any set of objectives, nor do they present any text or explanatory documents which define their
underpinnings, their criteria or the goals they wish to attain. Without any previously defined objectives or any
final expectations, any true assessment becomes impossible - it is all a success (or it is all a failure).
Out of respect for the public and the media which supports us, every year we publish a series of texts explaining
our intentions and what we aim to achieve. This allows us to become more committed to the festival audiences
and is our defense in the face of future interpretations and analyses, this being something I do not see happening
at other festivals nor at other institutions - the domain of the unknown, those who go about the business of
programming jazz events yet who remain faceless and who offer mute identifying discourse.
                                 PART II

Can a jazz festival these days be more than just a summation or a snippet of the past? Can or
should an event of this magnitude be responsible for diagnosing the present and anticipating the
future of this music and the potential for its exploration?

A jazz festival is always a thematic event limited by the cultural framework to which it is necessarily linked. With
jazz being the common bond, it would be impossible to conceive of the present festival without a return to the
past, just as it would be unthinkable to envision the future devoid of a past. The past plays an important role as
the source of legitimacy. There is deep ambivalence in assuming the posture of negating tradition because at the
same time we are refusing it, we are nevertheless considering it to be an essential reference element in the
structuring and historical reading of the music. The future does not exist as an objective entity; predictions are
always an open hypothesis. In cosmopolitan societies and in informed organizations the solutions to problems
are no longer seen as a foregone conclusion or applied as something taken for granted - they are continually
reevaluated and subject to review. Distancing from tradition is advantageous since it implies that all instituted
and accepted formats are automatically put to the test and must explain themselves in expressions of critical
questioning. All things considered, it is impossible to dispense with memory since memory allows us to put the
pieces of this scattered and fragmented world together and make it into something coherent. Looking back in
retrospect aids in the conceiving of new ways to push forward; however, if our objective is to simply pander to the
easy and quick late-comer and dissuade any critical encounter between the event and the audience, then the task
of tracing out an interesting future for Guimarães Jazz might well become an uphill battle.

As a musical genre, is it possible that jazz has reached a terminal point in which its aesthetical
properties have crystallized? Might jazz be the nothing but the constant re-appropriation and
reevaluation of the past? Does it have any future left or does its future lie in a renewal of its
artistic potential?

Jazz will continue to be increasingly important in the context of the arts. The topic of how jazz can hold enough
aesthetic interest to give it shape and get it to blend with other arts has been brought up in the past, and the
question itself is no longer an issue that people are actively discussing. Jazz has reached a place of universal
aesthetic value, on par with other musical art forms due to the fact that it has won over audiences interested in
the artistic phenomenon which it entails. Today, a jazz musician may well apply for scholarships or become a
professor at a Conservatory of Music or play in the same concert halls where venerable symphonic orchestras
perform and expect the same level of appreciation and acceptance as the most respected composers and
performers of other types of music. The future of this music is to be found elsewhere, in aspects related to the
survival of the arts and jazz in a cultural medium that is subject to considerable uncertainty and increasing
structural risks. We must address these questions in perspective and in a more general way. Society itself is
having difficulties in carrying out its own restructuring in terms of the future because there is no moment and no
place from which to catch a glimpse of any spot on the horizon even minimally stable or hopeful that can offer a
regular surface on which we can work. The uncertainties associated with recent modern society can no longer be
managed via the conventional and institutional patterns which have treated them from a quantifiable and
measurable standpoint. The existing de-phasing occurring between knowledge and control is a source of
insecurity and an extremely complex, fabricated threat. This insecurity is founded on distrust in relation to the
‘planning of the common,’ which is quite difficult to achieve at the present time. When there is no future, there is
also no hope, resulting in the loss of the energy needed for the stability and permanence of certain structures of
cooperation, which are fundamental for the support and the dissemination of the arts. Things have changed
quite a lot in the last few years and will continue to change. Today, people construct their own discourses with
many fewer self-referring elements. Many things have been destroyed or ravaged, and what is real now is the
existence of a symbolic detour in a society whose capacity to be experimental is no longer linked to the ability to
face problems by going head-to-head with other people. In the past, people structured their lives in the
framework of grand narratives, projecting their hopes for change in the world and their utopias at various levels
(religion, sociology, politics, economics). All planning presupposes a belief in the future. Nowadays, there is no
permanence, no regularity in relationships able to provide us with a healthy and constant means for discovering a
solid and collective future. We live so completely in the present that we have lost the structuring dimensions of
time, and the past has become less illuminated.

From what you are saying, you seem to be putting less emphasis on a comprehensive
explanation of the arts from the viewpoint of the avant-garde and rupture paradigm, as if this
interpretive method were not or could not be applicable to the present.

I understand the history of jazz to be the perception of its innumerable strata over time, from the models in
practice today (the tradition 12-beat or 32-beat structures) to the freer ones whose range of phrasing and
sequences is a sign of the purest improvisation and results in music that is produced in real-time and thus more
spontaneous and instantaneous in how it is elaborated - the fruit of possibility and performed at the moment it
takes place. In music, new forms of action and reaction are constantly being created, and the way musicians
interpret or react to the sound world at their disposal is reordered. In fact, these are new methods for using and
articulating information, acts which are inserted in a wider mechanism for cultural and artistic transmission.
There is always the danger of oversimplification when a general label is placed to distinguish amongst genres or
types of jazz, to which we should add the fact that the idea is out there, one connected to the progressive
character of the modern era, that culture advances in phases in a linear and sequential movement in an
evolutionary process facilitated by the assimilation of works from a canon - and this is not true. Currently, there
has been a rehabilitation of a thought and language of musical phenomena based on this worn out model of the
avant-garde. “The New Thing” which many critics, musicians and programmers are seeking so anxiously that it
borders on an obsession is a risky and ambivalent concept of signification and as a Programming Director, this
subjective expression is not of interest to me. The Cult of the New is the flimsiest and broadest of all the
propaganda, with their many arguments about differences and innovation which characterize the marketing and
consumerism of today. People speak of how the act of creating has dried up, bringing ‘the new thing’ up to the
fore. For older people, the work of art is conceived as a microcosm, leading us to believe that outside this there is
a macrocosm (the universal criteria of beauty). At the present time, art is a pure manifestation of individuality,
that is to say, it only represents a singular style and does not desire to be a mirror of the world. It creates the
internal world in which the artist operates, a world where we are allowed to enter, but not where a common
universe is being imposed on us to define the concept of beauty, rather a place where each artist has a plurality of
private worlds and an almost infinite diversity of individual styles. In my opinion, the question becomes: how do
you make contemporary culture out of this?

The festival has to make an effort to reflect the music being performed at present without any type of barriers or
borders. At last year’s festival, Charles Lloyd New Quartet and the New York Jazz Composers Orchestra
presented music developed from different perspectives. The first group chose improvisation as the model whereas
the second sought out the intersection of jazz with composition-based contemporary music without relying on the
individuality of the soloist, as was clearly seen in other concerts. There was also the Saxophone Summit, which
played an absolutely free interpretation of John Coltrane’s suite, Meditations. These three groups showed the
attempt to come to a place of confluence and intersection, with the possibilities open for the integration and
synthesis of a multitude of influences and inspiration, something close to the concept of “experimentation” - the
inclusive and integrating mode of dealing with the present which, contrary to the so-called “avant-garde,” is not
based on radical nihilism or the militant exclusion of the opposition.

Doesn’t free style fall into the spectrum of “confluences and intersections” that the festival wants
to approach?

The festival is a space that is open to diversity and the dissemination of music with there being no room for pre-
conceived notions in any dealings with its conception. Being a style on the same footing as all the others, free jazz,
to our mind, carries the same weight and importance as all other jazz formulas.

The concept of jazz has become too narrow these days to be aware of the phenomena occurring around it - as
happens with almost all complex concepts, the scope ends up masking reality and when we try to define it we are
confronted with innumerable exceptions, cases which only apply to certain stated criteria and not others, not
encompassing all established features needed for a flawless classification. This problem compels us admit that in
order to make value judgments on jazz there must be a minimum defining line for identification purposes that is
forcibly arbitrary. However, free jazz is, contrary to what common sense would indicate, more conventional and
pro-traditional than what it appears. The differences between various types of jazz operate according to specific
conventions, different from those of classic jazz considered to be “the canon,” freed from the cadence of phrasing
and strong rhythms marked by the clear beats of swing, for example. In the end, jazz, free jazz and other more
recent versions of this music do not enjoy the “radical-ness” that is so often attributed to it when compared to
other musical experiments from the beginning of the 20th century in the work of Charles Ives, Harry Partch or
John Cage. These musicians stretched sound to the limit of its ability to be played or executed, using specially
prepared or newly invented instruments and scores with unorthodox musical notations, thus attaining the
highest levels of musical abstraction and producing intense emotion, things that are truly innovative and which
increase the scope of their artistic expression I would like to quote Nietzsche’s second principle of art: “Art is the
highest power to falsehood, it magnifies the ‘world as error,’ it sanctifies the lie, the will to deception is turned
into a superior ideal.” At first glance, one could read in these sentences the will to subvert with respect to the idea
of truth as written down in textual grammar and aphoristic syntax in use. However, the subversion is far from
being as deep as was originally imagined as it becomes a question of a “true” classical concession to the very idea
of truth which apparently is negated. In other words, the exuberance over the form does not always imply an
immediate interpretation of the worth of the content and its substance.

So how would you characterize the place and relevance of jazz in the context of the history of art
and music in the 20th century?

There is a certain mythology associated with jazz, and one of the stories is that jazz discovery improvisation.
Improvisation has been a common practice amongst composers such as Beethoven, who was both a performer
and composer, even playing other composer’s works. In other words, the technique of expanding or improvised
improvements of a certain composition has its precedents in Music History, occurring independently and many
years prior to the appearance of jazz, although the unique jazz fingerprint is one of having used improvisation as
a non-written act of composition created in real-time and within an irregular and non-conventional framework 
which makes the music more malleable and subject to continual reinventions and reinterpretations - something
which comes from one enjoying greater freedom and unfettered exploration which is not reined in by other more
erudite musical languages. In jazz, improvisation is expanding, with there being little distinction between what is
written by the composer and what is improvised. The factor associated with the cultural roots diverging from
those of European music and the intrinsic marginalization involved - meaning that jazz was played primarily by
blacks and musicians playing ‘European instruments’ but who were forbidden from playing in concert halls -
makes it a relevant aesthetic. The composer Edgard Varèse once said, “Jazz is not America, it is a product of
blacks being used by Jews.” Many black musicians with classical training played a significant role in early days of
jazz, thus rejecting the simplistic and racist idea that this music was a purely instinctive and non-literate form.
What is impressive is the fact that a music such as this, so specific and so linked to a very localized and singular
culture and values, has managed to reach such universal stature, even to the extent that it has become a language
used by musicians from contexts totally alien from those in which jazz was born.

In other words, jazz is more important as an artistic and social phenomenon than as an
aesthetic rupture and a launching of a new musical language?

Jazz is indelibly linked to the great sociological changes of the 20th century: the growth of the metropolis, the
consumer society, the evolution of public transport and social media and broadcasting, new technology in the
production of shows, technological advances, urban culture, great population movements and the mobility of
people, the blending of world culture, the mass appeal and universality of the cinema as art, etc. If we consider
how atonalism appeared at the beginning of the 20th century with the first experiments in the use of dissonance,
we can readily see that on the level of innovation within the spectrum of musical language, jazz is a late-comer.
The same paradigm can be applied to other topics in the history of the arts: the cinema is a late-comer in relation
to painting and the plastic arts in general. Even the first truly abstract painting dates from the beginning of the
20th century. Given their particular characteristics, photography, cinema and jazz appear as moments
representing an era of advancement in technology and a change in the social, political and urban landscape, and
this aids in the growth of their content and credibility despite their young age. The speed of their development,
popularity and reinvention over little more than a century takes on greater relevance when compared to other art
movements. Although it emerged under one format, jazz quickly was elevated to the status of universal, and from
the beginning has dialogued with other types of music and to a certain extent has written its history in continuity
with them. Nevertheless, we may not bestow the almost transcendental innovative and the avant-garde features
which are normally given and which contribute to the mythology. Curiously, it is the Afro-American composers
who took up the ‘European material’ and introduced the blues and jazz, which was of their invention. For this
reason, aggrandizing the status of jazz and citing its best works and making comparisons with classical music is
akin to refusing to afford any just due to jazz for its originality. It is necessary to have an ample notion of the
history of the arts in order to avoid the excesses of the over-glorification and near veneration of jazz - one must be
mindful of the fact that quite a lot has already been discovered and almost everything has been experienced to
the point that an assumption of relativeness and realism in the way we perceive artistic expressions is required,
without our attributing too much importance to the world or making too many definitive judgments about it. I
am not very interested in partial or “specialized” vision of things; I like to be confronted with different points of
view, the multiplicity of interpretations, and maybe in this way my perception of this music can be better
understood - this is one of the most interesting things about modernity, although it has appeared later than those
aspects of the avant-garde of the last century, not because of any fault of its own but due to the constraints of the
epoch in question.

In the ‘beat’ novel “Go,” John Clellon Holmes remarks about the jazz appearing in the 1940s and
50s: In this modern jazz, they heard something rebellious and nameless that spoke for them, and
their lives found something in it for the first time, like their gospel. It was more than music; it
became an attitude toward life, a way of walking, a language and a habit… This idea appears to
synthesize your perspective on music that captures the spirit and the voice of a time, the
reflection of a new world (the great metropolis and the emergence of the urban landscape, the
political militancy of civil rights, the discovery of individual liberty, artistic experimentation
becoming an imperative and melding with the everyday). Do you observe in any of our younger
musicians a type of de-phasing between the music they play and its historic time frame, as if they
might be trying to rescue a lost time and world - any nostalgic revivalism?

There is sympathy toward the musician-type from the 1960s, which is impossible to be repeated or replicated as
this era can never be fully brought back. The past was neither as good or as bad as we suppose it was. If we look
back with overly nostalgic sentiments, we will never be able to deal well with the present reality and we will
innocently come to the conclusion that our world is the best at everything. We can never go back, and the past
will always be different from the present. Worse than any drippy nostalgia of the past is the forgetting of the past
or making it a hollow place without history. We will never come across one single-voiced and evident world but
rather a plurality of private worlds for each artist, expressed in an almost infinite mosaic of individual styles. The
work is now defined by the artist as an extension of him/herself, a privately developed person project in which
the questions of searching and the discovery of truth are relegated to the background. The distinctive element of
our contemporary times is certainly not the fact that artistic works reveal less talent nowadays than in the past.
The ambition underlying art has changed. In the end, numerous artists, through their work, aspire to maintain a
relationship with the truth, but they no longer wish to discover the world, having to coexist with myriad artists
whose pretensions are quite different from their own. When this occurs in the arts, universal values or ethical
criteria of reference are not reveals but rather a deep, individual inter-subjectivity. This phenomenon is also
manifest in things as simple as our daily lives, such as our urban fabric and the way cities are laid out with their
absence of common spaces where community-centered and close-knit activities can occur and where different
people can socialize and share experiences. It is difficult to predict what contemporary musicians might do with
this change. We have seen how the jazz recordings released this year are a little bit of everything: from swing to
free jazz, even to the most abstract and conceptual forms of interaction amongst traditional instruments, and
improvisations with machines and technology. We are witnessing the simultaneous revival and advancement of
all genres, and highly conceptualized exercises which are not experienced live - these are gestures in a laboratory
carried out with a basis in some distant knowledge and a type of self-overlapping of the idea of jazz over time.
Now more than ever, music today has a greater means of getting out to the public, yet this is a double-edged
sword - for as much as we have easy access to things, on the other hand we run the risk of feeling the tediousness
of such easy access or the annoyance of excessive contact of music commercially- produced for the masses. It is
easy to gain access to a concert given at La Scala, whether via the Internet or from a recording, but this format
does not give us the equivalent experience of actually being there, face to face with the moment, because we lack
the sense-based contact and the eye-to-eye connection, the bond of the trajectories which various people follow as
they attend to their lives and their daily comings and goings.

You seem to be skeptical as to the chance which jazz has to attain the level of artistic relevance
which it enjoyed from its beginnings to the 1970s. However, history, and in particular the
history of the arts, is never a monolith. Its narrative can never be limited to just one

What I have said before does not imply any assessment on the quality of the present or the past; jazz is part of a
current of accumulated knowledge which is traversing history and music, and it is a recent manifestation of a
process of cultural stratification over thousands of years. To compare the style of a young musician with that of,
say, John Coltrane is a fruitless exercise. It is destructive, strikes at the musician and belittles any chance of his
rightful existence. No one knows for certain the limits of an art, whichever one it might be, whether it is playing a
saxophone or painting. We should be open to being able to listen to a musician who may or may not be better
than John Coltrane. In the case of any such musician who appears, other limits for him will be found, ones
considered up to that point as being unsurpassable. History is not a monolithic construction because there is a lot
of data available, and this information is frequently contradictory in itself. There is also a great deal of
information that is lost (think about the famed Library of Alexandria - is it possible to imagine the contribution
to Western culture had not those valuable works been destroyed?) Today, there is too much information out there
and a large part of it will disappear completely in the future. The weighty question of the present is to know
whether we file it or not. The excess of data at the present time is posing the same problem today as the scarcity
of available information some years ago. We must learn how to select and to try, from that point, to construct our
narrative, as fragmented and incomplete as it may be.
                               PART III

How do you interpret the consequences of the recent changes in the field of music - the recording
industry, the market for artists and concerts, the critics…?

People have a natural tendency toward regularity and making patterns out of their behaviors, so for that reason
they are constantly adjusting the ties they have and the interaction they enjoy with their own fields of interest.
The traditional recording industry is in crisis, but let’s wait for what is coming next. We cannot really continue
along the lines of LPs or CDs forever. Technological development and the dematerialization and miniaturizing of
formats are causing changes in the paradigm, yet commercial logic and the control of the means that underlie the
producing of music are the same, and the concert circuit has enjoyed an exponential increase. The market is
growing larger and larger and this is mobilizing all sorts of interests in the arts in general and in the music world
in particular. As in any profession, the work surrounding the arts involves a series of agents who se collaboration
is what helps bring about a work of art. The musician’s great problem and his source of anguish is the danger of
becoming the image of something that no longer exists - there are so many intermediaries and so many unusual
elements in the strictly artistic milieu that when reaching a certain point the artist stops having a real existence
within the system and his music becomes a secondary by-product. The risk resides in the artist turning into some
global commercial agent; the processes of commercialization are the same and are valid for the jazz world as it is
for classical music and pop.

But isn’t this inevitable scenario of existence for art in an era of “globalization”? Is this not the
price to pay for the fact that art has become automated, not only as a language and vocabulary
that is not subordinate to any other rules of the conceptualization of the real (coming from
economics, religion, politics, etc.) but also as a system with its rules, hierarchies and
operational models?

There was a recent documentary entitled “La Danse - Le Ballet de L’Opéra de Paris” by Frederick Wiseman
(2009) which shows us the true scope and image of this system, its relationships, its commitments, the implicit
negotiations for survival which bring artistic creation into play, and in the middle of all this, profoundly human
aspects. In the film we see, for example, the sponsors of the Paris Opera (Salle Garnier) transforming the show
into a performance highlighting the serious and dedicated, even grandiose, work of the dancers, choreographers,
and all the technicians involved in the production, and later attending the rehearsals and following up on all the
logistical work, all this as if they were tourists contemplating the beauty of nature in a landscape of some distant
paradise. People have an almost morbid fascination with the private, the restricted and the secret side of ‘the
backstage’ of the arts. At the Paris Opera and its relationship with the public shed light on the simultaneously
grandiose and perverse characteristics of ‘artistic work’ as well as the system in which all the artists have to live. I
have no solution for this problem, nor do I have alternatives to offer for how it operates, but this is not really my
job. The majority of artists give themselves over to the powerful machinery of production and when they let
themselves be taken prisoner the only thing that remains of them is just a simple signature. In the end they are
just another insignificant piece in an immense structure. And in and amongst the answers to the requirements of
the markets, the great dilemma is, as it has always been, to reconcile the work with these other dimensions of the
artistic world.

In this perspective of yours, might there be an excess of idealism, the profoundly optimistic and
ethically demanding idea that it is possible for the artist to keep to the margins of the system, to
turn his back on its logic, subordination and dependencies - in the end, asking him to be
incorruptible and unyielding in his dedication to the values of art?

No. I have a very critical and finely honed notion of these difficulties. An artist such as Francis Bacon was not
able to escape from the commercial circuit of museums and galleries, but he was not totally swallowed up by it,
having managed to maintain a margin of freedom we see expressed in his work. Moreover, he lived all his life in
his tiny apartment, always worked in the same studio and threw his money away gambling. In him there was a
feeling of disdain for the value of money and a marginal refusal of certain market norms. Artists have to find
strategies for relating with the surrounding context and defense formulas that will protect their interests from
the contamination of foreign values on the artistic world - and if not, they run the risk of falling out of favor or
being passed over and tagged as “quixotic.” What is needed is to know how to run and manage the risks of being
misunderstood and then how to protect yourself from them. Artists find different ways to resolve this problem
depending on their spirits; being dissimilar in your position can be an enormous factor, and it is independent
from being clever. There are various ways to deal with recognition, the ambition of power, fame, with the system
and the artistic work, and this difference does not always interfere with the relevance or the importance of the
work. This situation can be seen in all manifestations of capitalism, but the arts play with intangible values. The
artist should create a tighter bond with the legacy of those who have come before and opened up the path to the
creative act; however, they are not the only ones collaborating with the commercial area of the artistic milieu -
institutions themselves are prone to this practice: universities, museums, critics, …

Do you think that the festival programming over the last twenty years reflects any evolution in
your personal relationship with the music?

No. My relationship with the music is personal and cannot be passed on to someone else. My own history, when
put out in public terms, loses interest from the moment when we have the privilege to encounter the subjectivity
and intimacy in people who are able to probe farther and more deeply into the space of experience, sensitivity
and the consciousness of the fellow contemporaries. With Guimarães Jazz I have learned to understand music
through others and in this relationship the fundamental dimensions of a festival like this one is established. The
history of this event reflects an evolution of my understanding relative to the music because I think about it with
regard to how other people deal with it and not just myself, not just my own personal tastes. I have difficulties in
acting in accordance with the ‘vision of a director.’ The best lessons are those that explore your own limitations
and are revealed over the time dedicated to discovering new things. I have also learned that people understand
and are sensitive to artistic work expressed in music with strength and quality.

So how do you define good music or a good concert? Are the criteria of “seriousness” and
“honesty” relevant for the evaluation of a piece of artistic work?

It is not easy to answer that question. Each musical event etches the internal explorations made by the artist on
the air and turns the moment into a monument, a testament to this essential moment. The piece is a tunnel,
through which individuals communicate and share their knowledge, what sparks curiosity in them. The history
of the creative undertakings and the act of assessing or evaluating it is sometimes as dispensable as it is abusive,
relative to the depth of human meaning contained therein.

And the concerts? As Programming Director, you still always have to make some kind of
determination and assessment.

In a concert there are important conditional factors which we cannot control. A musician may play well but he
has to know how to manage his stage presence well, to understand and feel the pulse of the stage and not get
entangled in situations that have nothing to do with his art. He might well be a virtuoso and great
instrumentalist, yet he must also possess the necessary skill to make the connection between himself and the
audience, a balanced one, and to know how to avoid the pitfalls of easy applause and the will of the audience to
participate in the receiving of the music. It is precisely due to the fact that the musician and the audience have
common experiences that the music performed stirs up such strong emotions and an overflow of appreciation,
meaning that the artist should not let the public interfere deliberately in his artistic pursuits. Artists can be rather
on the mark with their predictions of the reactions from the audience because the artistic process obeys
conventions. In the act of performing, there is physical and mental work going on, and because of this factor, the
musician is always responsible for his relationship with the audience. When the bond between the performer and
the public surpasses the musical plane, the concert is transformed into pure spectacle, into a self-centered
manifestation and it teeters dangerously between entertainment and exhibitionism, no longer being a cultural
act and becoming a moment of apotheosis and senseless, artificial and gratuitous excitement. If it could, the
public would cannibalize musicians, trying to participate in the concert as actively and engagingly as possible,
refusing the opportunity to experience and feel the talent and imagination of a great artist in a contained and
reflective way. I add to this the popularity of globally-known artists, world famous people who walk about with
thousands of screaming fans in tow. A characteristic of contemporary culture, this phenomenon of idol worship
is the product of the audience’s appetite for a ‘collective trip experience’ and the journey of community
consciousness; crowds tend to manifest their desires more intensely the larger the community there is willing to
travel together, even on a global scale, with little regard for the aesthetic concerns in the process. My role is only
to try to understand the difficulties and idiosyncrasies of a musician in a festival concert and any dynamics
caused by apparently inconsequential events which might disturb him. Success does not amaze me because
everything is ephemeral, and I also do not allow myself to feel regret for having selected any one concert, even for
as bad as said performance might have been because I am responsible for these things and I assume total
responsibility for any failure. Sometimes it is more difficult to manage a well-received concert than a bad one.
The ideal situation would be for things to happen without any mutual submission between the musician and the

In a jazz musician, which is more important: his technical skills or the way he transforms these
skills into a vehicle of expression and subjectivity? Can these two dimensions be placed in a
hierarchy in this way?

It is the musician and not I who should be responding to this question. This is an ethical question which has to do
with authenticity and the truth of artistic work, being the most important thing and that which distinguishes art
from any other commercial product. Out of principle I will admit to everything, to all possible answers to this
question. Sometimes, a certain type of “incapacity” produces fantastic performance techniques for an
instrument. The instrument was designed to fit the human body based on anatomy. The physical component of
the instrument establishes a perfected technical relationship between the musician and his prosthesis (the
instruments), expanding the potential for this relationship in a decisive way. Django Rheinhardt, for example,
only played with two fingers and his technique optimized this lesser ability or handicap; however, we can help
but wonder if he would have played as well if he used all five fingers. The musician has the right to adopt formats
for learning and approaches to music that are distinct from the conventions taught by schools of by the system
which they are a part of. We must not put this type of musicians on a pedestal of superiority either with respect to
those whose musical approach is more according to the institutionalized and certified musical canon. Of course a
musician with his own language or voice has to overcome more hardships because the models he is following
have not been ‘certified and legitimized.’ He must struggle against the conventions and this confrontation is
sometimes the artistic legitimization of what the artist is practicing. It is not the simple fact of being anti-
establishment that justifies this valorization; instead, what is indispensable is the bearing in mind of the intrinsic
values of one’s music.

Does music have more difficulties in relating or establishing connections with the outside world
than, for example, the visual arts or literature?

Music is a very abstract language and requires a deep level of knowledge and understanding. It began as the
imitation of sounds from nature and from there its history extends from the appearance of the first instruments
and the perfecting of their use to the discovery of sounds on the different musical scales. A concert is a millennia-
old crystallizing moment of experimentation of the musical practice. The beauty of an instrument reveals itself
via the guarantee of constancy and regularity of its sounds as confirmed by its tonal predictability. It is because
music is so abstract that it presents such a vast potential for communication. Literature is based on oral
tradition, with suggestions of its appearance as having intrinsically musical origins especially in poetic
constructions (rhymes, verse, cadences, rhythms, etc.), with these elements aiding in memorization and
consequently in the oral transmission based on music and the interplay of sound and silence. Words are
essentially sound nuclei made up of annexations and juxtapositions of sounds which provoke the natural
predisposition of human beings to music. The emancipation of the musical language is stimulated by the fact
that man has ceased to be the physical creator of sound, passing it on to an instrument, a technical artifact which
allows for the production of more complex sounds that cannot be reproduced by the voice or human gestures.
Human beings become only the executors, and the music is dependent on a person’s technical capacity.
Accepting the concept of music at its origin as being a form of mimicry of the sounds from nature, it can be
concluded that anything can be music as the extent and breadth of music is almost infinite. Thus, it is legitimate
to explore all types of sounds since they are part of the human experience.

What is your vision of the role of a musician or an artist - his specific “work”?

The relationship which a musician, artist or any other individual has with the material that males up his
profession is entirely his own responsibility, and in order to develop this I would ask the following question: how
would you express your music, your art, your thoughts, or your values? How would you reach others so that they
might have a comprehensive reaction to your work? This interaction involves study, creative processes, etc. We
need quite a lot of commitment to guarantee a place in the annals of history, and that is why we need to find
strategies for ‘inscribing the event’ at the time and for seeing its influence in the medium. Everything is inscribed
in the cosmos as image - everything that we do is being sent out and is floating in some remote place in time and
space, but we as yet do not have the scientific knowledge or technological instruments to extract our images from
the universe, setting up a type of cosmic archives. We are receiving images and light from stars that haven’t
existed for thousands of years. There is a phenomenon of refraction parallel to that of our own images, projected
out toward the stars and registered in this immense archive of the universe in something not unlike the idea of
existence after death. This is our fundamental problem and an inherent question for any musician or artist: how
do we project ourselves to the world and how permanent will the vestiges of our universal archive files be,
regardless of which official authority is at the command (religious, political or cosmic, and astrophysics)?