The president of the Hot Clube de Portugal, Pedro Moreira, believes that, at 100 years old, Jazz in Portugal is full of quality and diversity, but the market remains “extremely” limited and with fees equal to or lower than those of the 1990s.
Lusa spoke to Pedro Moreira about the celebration today, at the Belém Cultural Center in Lisbon, of two centenaries – that of the first international jazz concert in Portugal and the birth of promoter Luís Villas-Boas – promoted by Égide – Associação Portuguesa das Artes and the Hot Clube de Portugal.
“Jazz musically is very healthy in Portugal, although it’s a difficult and unsupported path. It’s not supported in the sense of supporting a, b or c, but it’s not very sustained in the sense that it would be good to have a much more consolidated circuit, a network of professional concerts. From the small club, the bar, to the movie theater, the festival, a bigger concert hall,” said the president of what is the oldest active European jazz club.
Although the conditions are not ideal, “jazz survives because it is a pulse of life”. “In other words, there is always interest, there is always an audience and there are always musicians, young and old, who want to learn and progress with this music,” he said.
Currently, there is “great quality jazz in Portugal”.
“And we have a particularity: our country being very small in scale, we have a huge variety of jazz styles. If we make a selection of 10, 20, 30 jazz projects in Portugal, from North to South, the styles are extremely different. I’d say that jazz in Portugal is very poorly formatted in this sense, for both good and bad reasons,” he said.
The good reasons have to do with “creativity and the musical journey, which everyone has to decide for themselves”.
The bad reasons are linked to the market, which “remains extremely limited”.
“Musicians have to have the space to be able to produce, to be able to perform and they have to be paid decent fees. Today’s fees for jazz are the same or lower than they were 30 years ago, you have to be clear about that,” he warned, although he stressed that “there are great examples happening in the country”.
Pedro Moreira defended “a greater presence of Portuguese musicians at festivals”, pointing out that in Portugal there are no large festivals dedicated to jazz, but there are some medium-sized ones “of great quality” and some small festivals “that promote Portuguese musicians and young people more”.
“At the bottom of the pyramid of professional activity would be the more informal concerts with less remuneration, until reaching the top of the pyramid, where there would be the big venues with ‘cachets’ of another nature. This Swiss cheese pyramid is full of holes. It’s not very consolidated and it would be good if it were more reinforced,” he said.
Despite the difficulties, jazz musicians “have a brutal resilience, an enormous pleasure in playing”.
Pedro Moreira recalls that this was notorious during the covid-19 pandemic, when “all the artists, not just jazz musicians, generously made [their creations] available, continued to create, share and give it to people”.
The celebrations of 100 years of Jazz in Portugal and the centenary of the birth of Luís Villas-Boas include the premiere of the theater and musical show “Tudo isto é Jazz!”, which tells the history and stories of Jazz in Portugal, as well as its main promoter.
On stage, actor João Lagarto will be Luís Villas-Boas, accompanied by the Hot Clube Orchestra, conducted by Pedro Moreira, and a group of soloists: Rita Maria, Sofia Hoffmann and Maria João (vocals), Ricardo Toscano (alto saxophone), António José de Barros Veloso (piano), Gonçalo Sousa (harmonica), Rão Kyao (flute), Zé Eduardo (double bass) and Laurent Filipe (trumpet).
The sold-out show is scheduled for 9:30 p.m., but the celebrations start earlier, with a series of free activities, also at the Centro Cultural de Belém.
In a round table discussion, Pedro Moreira, musician Barros Veloso, one of the first in Portugal to be affiliated with the language of modern jazz, and researcher and promoter João Moreira dos Santos will take stock and look at the present and future of jazz in Portugal.
Afterwards, a sextet will recreate a live concert that took place in 1927 at Lisbon’s Teatro da Trindade, by the first American jazz group to perform in Portugal, Robinson’s Syncopators.
On the same occasion, the documentary “Luís Villas-Boas: a última viagem” (Luís Villas-Boas: the last trip), by musician Laurent Filipe, who accompanied the promoter on his last trip to New York [in 1994], five years before he died, will be premiered.
The program also includes the presentation of the book “Villas-Boas, the father of Jazz in Portugal”, by João Moreira dos Santos, and an exhibition by artist Xico Fran, who was challenged to paint 12 canvases about the history of Jazz in Portugal.