Le Entrevista Lama Trio + Chris Speed by Pedro Tavares [ENG]

Lama Trio + Chris Speed talked with Le Cool after their performance at the 11st São Luiz Jazz Festival, where they presented the album “Lamaçal”, just released by Clean Feed Records.

Key acronyms :

(GA) Gonçalo Almeida
(SSS) Susana Santos Silva
(GS) Greg Smith
(CS) Chris Speed

You have just performed at the Jazz Festival in São Luís. How did the concert go?

CS – Guys! I thought it went great! Fantastic.
SSS – Yeah, I had fun, a lot of fun! I think it was good.
GA – I think it went pretty well.
CS – You know, actually it was great, we haven’t played together in half a year, right?
GA – Yes, that’s right.
CS – It’s like riding a bike. We just got on and it was like smooth from the first song. No train racks and the band immediately was intimate and also powerful and that’s…
GA – I felt the same. The mood was easy to jump into too.
GS – I felt that the it grew as we went on. I think it got better and better towards the end, and if we could have kept on playing…
SSS – What, forever?

GS – I reallly think it went like this as opposed to when things start really great and then you’ve had it and you don’t want to hear it anymore… I don’t think it was like that, I think it started like this and it got better.

GA – But I think the overall feeling for the four of us is that the concert was pretty nice and it was fun. We have a good impression. At least talking about me, we stepped out from the stage with a smile which is something good.

You have also presented the new album with Chris Speed, "Lamaçal", recorded live on the past edition of the Portalegre Jazz Festival. Tell us about this new work.

GA – Actually, it was a surprise for us because we didn’t expect to have two records so immediately, one after each other. Things just went pretty well after the first record, so Pedro (Costa) proposed “why not record live?” and once in a chat with him I told him “you know who I would imagine to be a great person to play with? Chris Speed”. And things developed and once Pedro called us and said “you know what? I have this festival, I want you guys to record live and I will contact Chris Speed. Let’s see what he says”. And yeah, things just went for this new record. And I’m very happy for the team work and for all the people that gave their heart and soul.

GS – Big ups to Chris because Lama started out as a sort of a democratic interactive trio. It was really the philosophy of the group. Chris heard that and immediately made it sound like a democratic interactive quartet as opposed to “ I’m gonna come in and show off as an amazing saxo” or just something like that. He went in and he really dug in and then just came as if he were an equal member… That’s quite a compliment to our sound, you don’t expect someone to be so cool.

GA- I really think that the chemistry with the musicians was really nice. And I think the music is already there…
CS -  That’s what I felt! The music was there, I just got to like sneak in.

The album "Oneiros" was acclaimed by the critics and the specialized press and considered one of records of the year. Why, is this a a different music? What do you say?

GA – Oh, that’s a hard question… What do we think? Is it a different music?
SSS – Different from what?

GS – I think that’s again about a story about doing something in a box or out of a box, and there’s absolutely nothing about us in the box. Obviously, that makes it a different music. Critics have to listen to five thousands of albums a year with amazing players and, just like everything else in the world, probably only fifty or a hundred albums really stick out, per year. I don’t think that we have big names in the international community but we may be something outside the box and that takes a little bit of daring actually. We started doing it from the beginning and the critics rewarded us for that and that’s great!

CS – I can say something on this because I’m not a critic but I listened to your guys’ record when you sent it me just to see if I should collaborate with you or not. Actually, trumpet trios aren’t that usual. It’s a kind of a different format to begin with, but I think the inner action in the group… It’s obvious from the first songs that the chemistry within the group is really special. The way you guys play together and interact and listen, and the songs are sweet and it’s like… Yeah, trumpet and bass and drums, that’s not so common!

GA – I was extremely overwhelmed because I didn’t expect… Obviously that’s what I wished, but I didn’t know what the press and critic would say about that record. When the critics and reviews started to come out it was very surprising for us. It was a very positive reaction so we got really happy about it and, personally, I got very happy that some of my ideas, which I guess are a strong point on the record, were, with the collaboration of them both, really happening and seemed to have made good impression. That’s why I think Pedro from Clean Feed got enthusiastic of having us making the next record.

You have edited both these albums in Clean Feed Records. Why, how did this relationship occur and what is it like to work with this editor?

GA – Basically, I knew Pedro because I had released a record previously with another band called Tetterapadequ. We had a free jazz quartet with João Lobo (drums), Giovanni di Domenico (piano) and Daniele Martini (tenor sax) and that’s how my relation with Pedro started. Later on, I had this recording with Lama and you know… I always thought Clean Feed is such a nice label, so why not give it a try. That’s why I dropped the cd with Pedro. I waited, I waited, I waited and after around six months I got the news from Susana that Pedro eventually listened to the cd and he really liked it.

SSS – It was really funny because he said “you know what? The other day I just found this cd at my place and I listened to it and I really liked it, it’s really cool”. So I told him “we’ve been waiting for six months! Let’s release it!” and Pedro said “yeah, good idea, let’s do it!”.

GA -  I can imagine that Pedro gets so many music…. Of course it’s hard, selection it’s sometimes random. And we were lucky. He liked it, he knew me from this other record, so he told me “ok, let’s do it, let’s find the balance between the deal we can find”. The relation between Clean Feed and Lama started there. I think the step forward was when he realised that the reaction, for a small band like us that nobody knew, was actually very positive. So he was very proud of the choice he had done.

What is more inspiring to you in music creation?

SSS – Life?... No, we were just speaking about how easy was to play with Chris, for instance, and the interaction that exists. I really get inspired by what I’m listening at the moment. It’s the only way I can really let it go and go with music. For me, this is the most important thing.

GS – I love the vitality when you gig something for the first time that you had never gigged before, it’s just a pure thrill… and if you try to do it again you can never find it. So if I’m gonna play a live concert with a band I won’t listen to the record for at least a month in advance. I won’t, because if I do I might try to do that live and I don’t want to.

CS – I have to sort of concur with Susana. What’s inspiring to me are the relationships that are ocurring, whatever interaction. Socially, musically…

GA – I always thought that in the end it doesn’t really matter much what are the notes. I think you will never remember actually what were the notes you played in that great concert. What you’ll remember it’s the people you played with. And it’s very much the point. I mean, I think that every musician likes to have a sort of idea of making a solo record sometime maybe, but I think the main thing of making music is to have somebody to play with and enjoy the relation of making music together. Which can be really painful if you play with the wrong people!

You perform electroaccoustical jazz where electronics play a major role. Why, does it provide you with more freedom?

GA – There’s a king of a difficulty with this question. I don’t think electronics play a major role. They just play a role and that’s just it!
GS – It’s just an added color to enhance the mood…

GA – But it’s definitely something I personally am not afraid of. There’s people very much concerned, you know, “it’s jazz, you never could put such a thing”. Why not? We’re in the 21st century, whatever! That’s how I see it. I think that’s what I try to translate to the trios. “Ok guys, let’s do something, put out some electronics”… It gives us more colours, I guess.

What are the musical references of the Lama Trio?

GA – What I really wanted from the beginning was to make a trio with no harmonic instruments, no piano, no guitar. So for me it was like “oh, interesting, trumpet trios”. And then I went to search for trios like that. If you look around you see some like Ed Blackwell, Charlie Haden and Don Cherry. This is obviously a reference… Or the Tiny Bell Trio, with Brad Shepik, Jim Black and Dave Douglas. Stuff like these are, I could say, references. But they’re just references. I mean, there’s many other type of music I listen to, not only references from jazz. Some come from other sides or corners…

SSS – Some dark ones…
GA – Some pretty dark ones!
GS – I feel like a blank slade when I come to this trio. I don’t have any preconceptions.

CS – I’m just jumping in, you know, I’m playing with them. I’m thinking about free jazz, improvisation, interaction and colour, and I want to explore that side of my musicality, more than maybe other aspects. I don’t know if those are musical references so much… When I’m playing with this band this is the frame of mind that I want to get into.

What other projects are you involved in?

GS – I’ve work a lot with singers, especially black american women. I don’t know why but  it has happened a lot . I have a piano trio that also plays a kind of a free jazz but it sorts of groove through it sometimes. It’s hard to explain… I also play a lot of world music. So I play african, brazilian, moroccan… Oh, I play with dancers, I write to dancers. I write a lot of modern ballet music.

CS -  At the moment I have a band called Endangered Blood. We have a new record out. I work with Uri Caine deconstructing various dead composers. I play with Dave King and Craig Taborn. At the moment, there’s many things happening…

SSS – I play with Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos and the European Jazz Orchestra. I have a duo with Jorge Queijo, and Maria Mónica on the visuals. I have a duo with a piano player, Kaja Draksler, from Slovenia, who lives in Amsterdam. I play with this belgium trio De Beren Gieren. And I have a new duo with a swedish bassplayer Törbjorn Zetterberg.

GA – I’m a threesome guy. I like trios. I have Lama and I have another trio called Atos, something a lot more scapish. Then I have a trio called Albatre that has just released on Shhpuma. It’s definitely a very visceral music, I play bass guitar and it’s really… loud as we can. And then I have another trio for which I compose most of the music called Heinz Karlhausen & The Ditonics. It’s very cartoonisk, filmisk, horror music, kind of... And I’m busy with the quartet Tetterapadecu which is basically pure free jazz acoustic. Lately, I’m also very busy with Spinifex Quintet from Amsterdam. We’ll be back in Portugal in July and will play at Goethe-Garten.

(CS/GS) What do you think about the Portuguese jazz scene?

CS – I don’t really know it, but I always have fun playing here. There are some great musicians. You know, I don’t think about jazz scenes. I mean, I guess I feel lucky that I come here and play, it’s always a sweet audience, but I don’t really know about portuguese jazz scene… I don’t really know the New York jazz scene!

GS – I like the portuguese public because when we play here… Once we played in this place called Arte e Manha and the people looked they were in meditation, watching us play. Another crazy time was when we played in CCB and there was a line up for a gig! I never experienced that in jazz scene! And we played a set and still there was a line for the second set. So, that’s a great public.

What will be your next steps?

GS – Coimbra.
SSS – Coimbra, Porto, Vila das Aves, Caldas da Rainha.
CS – You guys are touring the world!
GA – Rotterdam, Oostende, Lituania maybe… Montreal…
GS – We can also have Chris… if you like Montreal.
CS – Of course I love Montreal!

GA – Our next steps will be basically to see what this record will bring us. Any place which would like to have us we’ll be very willing to come and visit.

SSS – Yeah, tell that to the world!

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