Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lara Solnicki Interviews Sara Serpa

June 2, 2016

Lara: Hi Sara, Welcome to spring summer 2016! How’s it going for you so far− the heat?

Sara: The heat.. it’s been warm in New York. It’s also the end of the season. In July we leave for Portugal and have a series of concerts there. André and I are playing duo every week in different towns... small towns, and in Lisbon at the Hot Club for 3 nights with Devin Gray, a drummer from New York. We will be exploring new and old material− songs from [the 2014 album] “Primavera” and our new album, “All the Dreams”. It’s going to be a good opportunity to start working the duo because in the past we’ve always had a band playing with us, not really embracing the duo format.

Lara: Easier to travel that way, more compact! Will you be performing with Greg Osby?

Sara: No but we will see him in Poland in October. Greg is curating a festival there, the 
Sopot Jazz Festival. Some other people from Inner Circle Music will be there- Emilie Weibel, João Barradas, I think Logan Richardson among others. It’s going to be exciting.

Lara: Looks like you’ve been up to a lot of variety in 2016! You had your debut with the Albany Symphony Orchestra. Let’s hear about that!

Sara: I did- I was invited to sing a piece by Derek Bermel “Mar de Setembro" set to poems by Portuguese poet Eugenio de Andrade. It was written for Luciana Souza, but for some reason she couldn’t make this gig, so I was very glad to do it. It was very different—

Lara: Very different than jazz! The formality...  

Sara: Yes, and just to accept that you are the soloist, and everyone will follow you... At first I was trying to be a musician, to know what every part was doing.. and then I finally accepted: I’m the soloist. I should embrace my role as the soloist.

Lara: With respect to your new project City Fragments, how long has it been in the works? What is the goal of the ensemble?

Sara: Initially I created it in Portugal, in 2013. Singing with other singers has always been one of my biggest aspirations. Basically, I invited some singers and experimented, it was very ambitious, 8 singers and a band. I learned about the challenges of working with such large ensemble.... I decided to recreate the group in New York and now I have just 3 singers- me, Sofia Rei and Aubrey Johnson, voice, André Matos, guitar, Erik Friedlander, cello and Tyshawn Sorey, drums. It’s still a work in progress. 

Lara: What are the latest developments between you and your duo with iconic pianist/composer Ran Blake?

Sara: We released “Kitano Noir” in 2015 and we will start rehearsing in September and then have a few more gigs in December. At some point you realize that it’s really difficult to have so many projects at the same time where you are the leader...Ran has been really busy with his teaching at the New England Conservatory and is performing a lot, so we just perform once/ twice a year.

Lara: How do you keep everything together on top of being the mother of a 2 year old?

Sara: You become much more efficient with the time that you have..

Lara: I do find that things often run smoother when you work with musicians that you know. It seems like you work with a lot of the same people. I’ve certainly met a lot of musicians on stage! 

Sara: Yes,  I think that it’s really important to build your musical family. For now, I’ve been lucky to keep things steady, to keep developing all of these projects over the years. 

Lara: What's on the horizon with your quintet?

Sara: André and I decided to work on this duo and make it happen, so we wrote a specific repertoire and made it a priority. Besides this, I sing  Ran Blake, City Fragments and I also sing with Mycale, John Zorn’s quartet... so these are the things that have been keeping me busy.
Lara: Your new album “All the Dreams” will be released later in 2016. What is the theme behind the album essentially?

Sara: “All the Dreams” is a continuation of “Primavera”. Andre and I have found a way that works for us, to create music and develop it together. After that first step of “Primavera” we kept working/ writing. This time there are more lyrics− there is more Portuguese. We embraced our language and also invited just two guests, Pete Rende and Billy Mintz. There are songs that are older and songs that are really new which we haven’t performed live. Things always take a different shape when you perform them in concert and start experimenting. We rehearse at home, but it’s different. There are songs that we recorded in the studio, then rearranged them and recorded a new version ..At some point we had a completely different song, using the studio also as a tool for creation.

Lara: What is the theme of the album?

Sara: A line from a poem by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa “I have inside me all of the Dreams of the world”, that became  “All the Dreams". 

Lara: Do you have set repertoire for all of your projects? Or is there much variety between performances?

Sara: You can say that. And then there’s a gig or a tour with new music. You work as much as possible. There’s something about New York.. you are always working on something...

Monday, April 18, 2016

Epic Bass Lessons - Episode 1

#LatinGRAMMY nominee , #GlobalMusicAwards Medalist, #InnerCircleMusic #Artist and world renowned #Bassist Juan Garcia-Herreros introduces his new series of Internet Bass #Lessons.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Deep Listening: Breathing with the Music - by Jason Yeager

Recently I asked a student to listen to a particular recording carefully, several times, before embarking upon the process of transcribing one portion of an improvised solo, a hallmark of a young improvising musician's self-study and growth. The student then asked me, "But how do I just listen? How do I study a recording? When I listen to music, it's usually in the background..."

I instantly recognized in this student a conundrum I also face.  I would love to sit still and pay attention to nothing but the music for an entire album, to say nothing of a single six- or eight-minute track. How often do I do this? And if I find the rewards of doing so satisfying, why don't I listen with single-pointed attention more often?

A simple response is that technology -- in the form of screens, too many screens! -- distracts us, and has the potential to engage our (ever-dominant) visual cortex while the most arresting and beautiful music plays in the background.  I think this is part of the answer, and I think the other part--for musicians at least--may be that we are too engaged in constantly judging: Is this good? Am I good? Is this better? What time is this in? What does that melodic line have to do with the underlying harmony? And if I can't answer these questions, is my musicianship lacking? These questions get in the way of being present with the sounds at hand, of fully experiencing the music we hear in the moment that we are hearing it.

Ran Blake has a wonderful book, Primacy of the Ear, that posits that the deepest learning in music occurs aurally. Music is a hearing art, and what we observe visually from a page can only approximate the depth of feeling, nuance, and soul that can be absorbed from a recording or live performance. There are spiritual components to an individual's or band's sound that cannot be fully conveyed through words, notation, or analysis (valuable though those other media of understanding may be).  Ran's outlook inspires me to first listen only for the sounds themselves, to sink into the physical sensations of the actual vibrations, and to try (as best I can) to suspend all analysis and judgment. However, the idea is to do this while also paying full attention.

So deep listening is a kind of meditation. Just as meditative practitioners focus on their breaths, and/or their bodies, as they sit and observe their own experience (mentally, physically, spiritually) without trying to change or judge it, perhaps too we can sit and breathe with the music we hear without trying to "tell stories" about what it is, what it isn't, or how great or inadequate we are as musicians.

I'd love to hear your thoughts/contributions in the comments section.

Thanks for reading!