High Bias #16
NAME: Rodrigo Amado
BIO: For Portuguese saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, improvisation isn’t only a process of making music, but an end in itself and a cause he pursues with great passion. His long span project Lisbon Improvisation Players and other groups he formed with, for instance, Ken Filiano, Steve Adams, Dennis Gonzalez, Carlos “Zíngaro”, Kent Kessler, Paal Nilssen-Love, Miguel Mira or Gabriel Ferrandini, all share the same method of opening the concept of real-time composition to as many perspectives as possible.
With one foot in modern jazz and the other in free improvisation, what he likes most is to play in the jazz idiom, without any tunes or preconceived structures, but forging a work of strong structure, clear direction and deep meaning, in real-time. So, his improvisation, although not free in formal terms, is free anyhow in its strategies and in the open spectrum of possibilities it offers musicians working with him. And that ambiguity is what interests him.
Born in Lisbon in 1964, he studied saxophone since he was 17 years old. Since then, he developed an intense activity focused mainly on the Jazz and Improvised music fields. Studied briefly at the Hot Clube Music School of Lisbon and had private lessons with some of the leading jazz players in Portugal, namely Carlos Martins, Jorge Reis and Pedro Madaleno.
Some of the musicians he played or recorded with: Lou Grassi, Steve Swell, Herb Robertson, Lisle Ellis, Taylor Ho Bynum, John Hebert, Gerald Cleaver, Luís Lopes, Aaron Gonzalez, Stefan Gonzalez, Paul Dunmall, Raymond Strid, Sten Sandell, Per Zanussi, Adam Lane, Joe Giardullo, Harris Eisenstadt, Tomas Ulrich, Alex Cline, Bobby Bradford, Vinny Golia, Dominic Duval, Mike Bisio, Scott Fields, Daniel Carter, Federico Ughi, Chris Jonas, Michael Thompson, Wade Matthews, Gail Brand, Michael Attias, Andrew Drury, Sture Erikson, Rachim Ausar Sahu, Per-Ake Holmlander, Jan Roder, Elliott Levin, Mark Whitecage, Peter Epstein, Greg Moore, Phill Niblock, João Paulo Esteves da Silva, Sei Miguel, Rafael Toral, Manuel Mota, Ernesto Rodrigues, DJ Ride, Carlos Barretto, Ulrich Mitzlaff or Nuno Rebelo, among many others.
In September 2001, Amado joined brothers Pedro and Carlos Costa to start the label Clean Feed, totally devoted to record creative contemporary jazz and improvised music. Very quickly, Clean Feed found itself at the vortex of the international creative jazz scene, releasing projects that reached far beyond what was initially imagined. In 2005, Amado left the company and started his own label, “European Echoes”, focusing mostly in his own work. Since then, he is spending more and more time with his own projects, with music and photography. He also writes on a regular basis for one of the most prestigious Portuguese newspapers, Jornal Público.
He leads the projects Lisbon Improvisation Players and his Motion Trio with Miguel Mira and Gabriel Ferrandini, and tries to mantain regular collaborations with his other projects; the trio with Kessler and Nilssen-Love, the trio with Zíngaro and Filiano, and the quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum, John Hebert and Gerald Cleaver.
Do you read reviews of your work?
Do you reread them? Save them? Quote them?
I only read them once (occasionally, I go back to them, years later). After that, they lose the surprise effect.
Yes, I save all of them. They are an important source of information on my site and they help me track certain aspects of my personal evolution. Also, my memory is getting worse everyday, so all this written information gives me a lasting perspective on my work. The strongest look I have on my early years as a musician (20/25 years ago) is a group of reviews, articles and interviews.
Yes, I quote them.
Have reviews ever had an effect upon the way you approach your work? For better or worse? How?
When I started playing, reviews had a big impact on me and on my work. Bad reviews would make me angry and frustrated and good reviews had an opposite effect. Overall, I think they played a strong role on my formation, as a musician, in a positive way. Gradually, I started identifying critics and writers and interpreting their opinions accordingly. Recently, I face reviews as info, essential to spread the word about my work, but they don’t seem to affect my music in any way.
Are there writers you hope will (or won't) write about your work?
I have my opinion on some people that write about my work. Others, I don’t know well enough (meaning, I didn’t read them enough to have an opinion). Some, I respect more than others and I am happy to see that they took time to listen to my music. Very often, they will write something that interests me, almost like a conversation between them and my music. I also write about music, and have a strong respect for the discipline. I know how hard it is to choose the right words and to make a text that is both informative and personal, connecting with the music you’re writing about. I’m really not happy with my own writing but I love the challenge.
Have you ever written to a reviewer or publication in response to a negative review of your work? a positive one?
Not really. I might say something exchanging mails, but that’s just part of daily communication. When I meet a writer that I feel has a strong insight into my music, we can talk about that, although I don’t feel very comfortable. Most probably, we’ll have a strong empathy and end up talking about everything but my music.
Are there reviewers who you consider to be your friends? Do they write about your work? How does that make you feel?
Yes. It happened a few times. If we got friends through the music, I feel it’s really special if they continue to write about my music. They have a privileged view on my work, and they can go deeper in writing about it, which is the most important thing, in my opinion. Some might choose not to write anymore, after being friends, and I totally respect that. It happened once, that a good old friend of mine ended up writing about music, and he wrote about a couple of my records. That felt really strange. Not comfortable.
Has you ever been told by a writer that they feel too close to you personally to write about your work? What was your reaction?
No one told me that yet, but I feel it has happened. I respect it.
Have you ever felt that a writer was trying to get something out of you, or get back at you, or had some other ulterior motive in what they wrote about you? Please explain.
Well, I have felt in interviews that the journalist has an agenda. And he keeps directing you to his objective instead of really listening to you. That’s annoying. Also, in a small country like Portugal, you always get these little vibes, these subtle signs, that have to do with groups of people, informal lobbies…I care much more for what is written about my music outside Portugal (with a few exceptions). It tends to be less biased.
Have you ever published anything you wrote about someone else's music? How often? Do you continue to write about music?
Yes, I do it often for a Portuguese daily newspaper (Público). I invited two other writers to join the team, so I don’t need to write about Portuguese musicians that I know very well or have played with. My policy is to cover every Portuguese jazz release that comes out. Unless it’s really bad and I feel the musicians don’t deserve to hear about it.
Do you think there was a time in the past when music journalism was better or worse than it is now? Why or why not?
I feel music journalism is going through a deep change. There are great writers. Blogs give the possibility of strong personal statements. The record industry crisis is affecting the stability of many. Magazines are closing and online writing hasn’t found the means to finance itself. Everything is a little scattered. Let’s wait.