Interview for “Jazzbluesnews.space”
JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?
César Cardoso: – I was born in Leiria, in the central region of Portugal, and I started studying music at an early age, with 7 years old, at the philharmonic from my place. My parents never studied music, but they wanted me and my brother to have a hobby and they surely hit the bull’s eye, since we are both musicians (the first generation in our family).
JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the saxophone?
CC: – I was influenced by the conductor of the philharmonic to start learning the saxophone since there were only a few players and they usually assign students to those instruments which are missing. But I fell in love with the saxophone, so it was actually a very good influence.
JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the saxophone?
CC: – I studied classical saxophone in the conservatory, where I played the alto saxophone, but it was only after I started studying jazz at Hot Clube de Portugal that I realised I really wanted to become a jazz musician. For that I had two great Portuguese saxophone players that help me, Pedro Moreira and Jorge Reis. And in this jazz context, the tenor saxophone somehow captivated me more than the alto, probably due to its register and timbre. It was definitely a choice for life.
JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?
CC: – I think that when we are studying we are mostly influenced by what and who we are listening to, by the solos that we transcribe and by our teachers. At least that’s how it was for me. And the sound that we develop ends up becoming similar to the ones of such influences, even if we are not trying to do that.
For me the sound is the most important thing in a musician and that is why I work on that every time I study. I’ve developed many technics with harmonic notes, diaphragm, tongue, throat and mouth, but I believe that the most important aspect is the sound we build in our head and experience teaches us ways to transmit what we think and feel to the saxophone and connect with people who are listening.
JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?
CC: – I’m currently practicing many different approaches with the metronome, such as setting it up in a very slow tempo and trying to subdivide the tempo in many parts and also feel each one very slow, like many drummers do.
Another exercise that I’ve doing lately is setting up the metronome in the 2 and 4 and playing standards only with that, or only in the 2 or only in the 4, sometimes only in the 1.
But I think that the best one can do is to keep changing the exercises and practicing in many different ways.
JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?
CC: – Of course. I enjoy Standards, with traditional, diatonic harmonies and good melodies. But I also like more atonal and difficult music, where sometimes the chords are not directly connected but somehow make sense. I prefer many chords completely atonal in the same section that a only 1 chords for one section.
I’m not a fan of patterns and I discourage my students to use them frequently. They need to analyse and understand them, of course, but afterwards they should try to create their own solos and unique patterns. For me improvisation needs to be (or at least to sound) organic and not prepared.
JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating through the music business. Is there any piece of advice you can offer to aspiring students or even your peers that you believe will help them succeed and stay positive in this business?
CC: – The music business is tough. Most Jazz musicians (not the well-known artists, of course) need to make their own contacts and find concerts. We are not only musicians, but also our own managers and sometimes this is hard because we don’t focus on the most important thing, which is our music. But the question is: if we don’t promote ourselves, who is going to do it? So my advice to other musicians would be to make a true effort on both features.
JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?
CC: – I think so. We are currently witnessing a fast evolution in Jazz music, with many students, festivals and clubs. Of course it’s not like the pop or rock music industry, but it’s definitely a business.
JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
CC: – Standards are tunes with a very strong harmony and melody (in the most cases at least) and that makes them accessible to public in general, since they are easy to understand, in a way. But jazz is not all about standards and when we listen to great musicians we tend to also like their music. I think the combination of good tunes with good musicians is what gets young people interested.
JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?
CC: – Coltrane was a very spiritual musician and that was his way to feel the music. I think all musician feel music and life in different ways and this influences their way to express music.
JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?
CC: – There’s not a doubt in my mind that Jazz will continue to evolve in the future and that many more people are going to study, make and listen to jazz music.
I don’t think I have any fear or anxiety at the moment. I do think we, jazz musicians, need to make things happen, like recording albums, carrying out different projects and performing so that the public is touched by your musicality and by how we feel music.
JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?
CC: – I want to carry my music to other countries, give concerts in different places, convey how I feel music and hopefully show that there are really good Portuguese music and musicians.
JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?
CC: – There are always similarities between different music styles but jazz has something special since improvisation allows us to express more, I think.
JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
CC: – I’ve been listening to Ben Webster (he has a wonderful album with Oscar Peterson), Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson and also Miguel Zenón, who is a wonderful saxophone player with a unique musicality.
Interview by Simon Sargsyan