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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Susana Santos Silva - Exclusive Interview

Free Jazz Collective : A few years ago you were mostly known in Portugal, now you play all over the world and in different bands. How do you explain this difference? What changed everything? 

Susana Santos Silva : It's kind of a normal development, though I also think that, on the one hand I was a bit lucky and, on the other hand, I really went for it at some point! 

There were a couple of things that helped a lot. One of them was to be part of the European Movement Jazz Orchestra in 2007, where I met Kaja Draksler, someone I've been connected since then. It was the first time I went to play abroad with musicians from other countries whom I met for the first time then. Until then I had only been playing, since I was 17 years old, with the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos in Porto (OJM). 

The other important step in my musical life was to move, for a little while, to Rotterdam in The Netherlands, where I met Gonçalo Almeida. When I arrived in town he put together the band LAMA. Later on we released our first album, Oneiros, on Clean Feed and this was probably the biggest step for me to get out in the world. 
The 12 Points Festival in Dublin, for emerging young musicians, at which I played with my quintet in 2011, was also a important event, I believe. 

This was the lucky part of it all. The other reason was that a very important change in my life happened a bit more then three years ago. A change at many levels and from then on I'm really living accordingly to what I believe and who I really am, as a human being and as a musician. I stopped trying to be what I thought I should be and I started to truly speak my heart out. For me music is a strong passion and a way of living and I think that I've kind of started to get all that I give back from the world. 

Free Jazz Collective : Your three latest albums "Impermanence", "If Nothing Else", and "The Paradox Of Hedonism" are completely different in nature and in style. Does the style make a difference to you? Which do you prefer naturally? Will you ever make a choice among these approaches or are they all valid for you? Improvised vs composed?

Susana Santos Silva : Styles don't make any difference. The important thing is that the music is well played, sincere, honest, with an open heart and mind. I also like playing without a safety net, which means that risks are taken and boundaries and limits are pushed continuously. Right now I have an inclination to prefer improvised music in general because it's so much more "authentic" somehow, I feel so much freedom … Anything can happen, there are no "shoulds" or "musts", and there isn't  that thing of getting a bit stuck on what is written… I can let myself go completely, and that feeling has no comparison whatsoever with anything else. When expectations disappear, when time gets suspended and space is not a place anymore and all there is is nothing… except for that musical communion… it's truly magic, beautiful stuff!

But all music is valid, of course, and I do like to play written music. The "Impermanence" project is all music written by me for this specific band. It was recorded within a Jazz Association in Porto, Porta-Jazz, and except for Torbjörn Zetterberg, all the musicians are living in Porto and are part of this association. There's also a lot of improvisation and I've tried to find open spaces within the structures so everyone could express themselves freely. It's not easy to find this balance between composition and improvisation and for me it's just a work in progress so far.

"If Nothing Else" is an album I really enjoy listening to, which is normally something hard for me to do! It's improvised music but with a great sense of structure and development within each song. And that's what can be so beautiful in an improvised piece of music, that all the notions of composed music, like the development of an idea, theme and variations, counterpoint, leitmotifs, dynamics, question-and-answer phrasing, different layers, textures, and so on, can just happen spontaneously, in the moment.

Free Jazz Collective : You seem to like duets, as with Torbjörn Zetterberg or with Jorge Queijo. And we look forward to your new album with Kaja Draksler. What is so special about the duet for you? 

Susana Santos Silva : A duet is a one-on-one conversation type of meeting, that's quite special and intimate. It's two people discovering one another in a very direct and beautiful way and with no one else in between, so there's nowhere to hide. It's also very challenging musically and technically. I like to connect that way with other musicians and I like the challenge.

Free Jazz Collective : Who were your role models in music/trumpet-playing? And what are the key learnings you have from them?

Susana Santos Silva : This is always a tough question to answer… There are too many to name, and for so many different reasons, that I always skip to name any. But what I learned with all of my favorite musicians through history, is that what is really important is that I tell my own story. As a musician I'm a mix of many different influences from all kinds of music and musicians, as well as from life itself and everything that surrounds me. But when it's time to step on stage to tell my story it's my voice that comes out of my horn. I could never tell someone else's story.

Free Jazz Collective : What would you like to achieve? What is your ambition with your music and with your trumpet playing? What would you like people to say about your music in 2115? 

Susana Santos Silva : I'm a perfectionist and very ambitious, two things that might work against me and the relaxed life I would like to live. I would like to do so many things, there's one million projects in my mind all the time. 

Yet I don't feel like I need to achieve anything specific really. I'm living an amazing life right now. I'm playing, I'm living from it. I am meeting wonderful people around the world and I can live from my passion! It's not easy, don't get me wrong! It's often hard and complicated but at the same time it's really beautiful! I want to keep doing my thing, experimenting and exploring new paths, new ways of telling my story. 
I don't have any wish whatsoever for people to listen or to talk about my music in the future, honestly. But on the other hand, if people listen to it, now or in 2115, and if I touch people in any way, if my music heals their pains, even for some minutes, if I bring people some joy or hope, or even just a smile, if my music makes someone think out of their ordinary system of thoughts, if my music makes any difference in this world, then I will be extremely happy to be able to give something meaningful back to society!