One hundred years of Jazz in Portugal and promoter Luís Villas-Boas celebrated on Friday in Lisbon

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The history and stories of jazz in Portugal, as well as its main promoter, Luís Villas-Boas, are told in a theater and music show, to be presented in Lisbon on Friday, on a day dedicated to this musical genre.

This year marks two centenaries – that of the first international jazz concert in Portugal and the birth of promoter Luís Villas-Boas – which Égide – Associação Portuguesa das Artes and the Hot Clube de Portugal have decided to celebrate with a program that includes, in addition to the show “Tudo isto é Jazz!”, a round table, a concert, the presentation of a book and the premiere of a documentary.

The show will tell the story of Luís Villas-Boas, the story of Jazz and the story of Jazz in Portugal.

“There are three narratives that converge in the same show, and we’re going to tell them through music, with the Hot Clube de Portugal Orchestra and a series of guest soloists, a total of 31 musicians on stage,” the author of “Tudo isto é Jazz!”, promoter and researcher João Moreira dos Santos, told Lusa.

On stage, actor João Lagarto will be Luís Villas-Boas, who throughout the show will share stories about how he progressed in jazz, how he fell in love with that musical genre or how he dealt with the so-called ‘jazzophobias’ – “a whole critical reaction to jazz, which is sometimes filled with profound ignorance, deep contempt for jazz and extreme racism at times”.

João Moreira dos Santos recalled that Luís Villas-Boas, who came to be “called a batuque, a jazz nut, the introducer of black-batuque music”, “fought all his life to affirm jazz, to institutionalize jazz, to show that jazz is a serious, valid music”.

The promoter believes that anyone who attends the show, which is sold out, will leave “in a good mood, because it’s contagious music”, and “with a better understanding of the history of jazz in Portugal and how this generation of Villas-Boas managed to impose jazz against everything and everyone”.

The show’s repertoire ranges from the “great classics”, by Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie or Ella Fitzgerald, to the present day, and will also include songs by Portuguese musicians.

The music will be performed 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).

For the musicians involved in the project “it’s a novelty to have to follow directions from a director and have an actor on stage”, but “Jazz comes from here”.

“At the first jazz concerts in Portugal, the musicians were part of theater companies. They weren’t part of the show, but they were part of the theater companies, up until the 1930s. It was an extra attraction, sometimes they played in the foyer, sometimes in the main hall, and then came the theater, which was the big draw.”

“Then it became autonomous as concert music,” recalled João Moreira dos Santos.

The show is being performed in the Small Auditorium of the Centro Cultural de Belém, and its author would like to take it “at least to Porto and Guimarães, where there is a very important jazz festival, Guimarães Jazz”.

“We’re making contacts in this direction, but it’s not easy, because it’s an expensive show that involves a lot of musicians. Maybe one or two other places, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to pull it off,” he said.

The premiere of “Tudo isto é Jazz!” is scheduled for 9:30 p.m., but the celebrations for the two centenaries begin earlier, with a series of activities that are free to attend.

In a round table discussion, the musician and president of the Hot Clube de Portugal, Pedro Moreira, the musician Barros Veloso, one of the first in Portugal to be affiliated with the language of modern jazz, and João Moreira dos Santos will take stock of a hundred years of jazz in Portugal and look at the present and future of this musical genre, “a great chameleon that has always absorbed multiple influences”.

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, the Robinson’s Syncopators.

“It’s a group that played for several years at the Cotton Club [in New York], and when they left they were replaced by Duke Ellington’s orchestra, one of the great names in jazz. After the Teatro da Trindade, they played the New Year’s Eve show at the Grande Casino Internacional do Monte Estoril. For the first time, we’re going to let the Portuguese public hear what this orchestra sounded like, which caused quite a sensation in 1927, because there were negative reactions: ‘what’s this about a band of African-Americans coming to our theaters and traditional concert halls?

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, and based the film on that”, will be premiered.

Before the show, there will also be a 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.

“One of the canvases is dedicated to Villas-Boas, another to the first foreign group to play in Portugal [in 1924, at the Teatro da Trindade], the Pan-American Ragtime Band, and others to the best-known musicians who played in Portugal, brought by Villas-Boas,” said João Moreira dos Santos.

Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi
Moti Shabi

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