May 29, 2024

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An interview with Tulio Augusto: An album is always part of a self-biography … Video

Jazz interview with jazz guitarist Tulio Augusto. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.Space: – First let’s start with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music?

Tulio Augusto: – I’m from a small-medium town called Guanambi, in Bahia-Brazil. Brazil is a very big and diverse country influenced especially by its own culture. Even in Bahia there are many different genres and styles of music, most of them with a wide use of drums and rhythm exploring. Somehow, I had always been interested in arts in general and I grew up surrounded by the rich Brazilian culture context. Until age of 15 everybody thought I would go trough drawing, painting. But once I discovered the music way, I knew it was something I could do without get tired.  First, I fell in love with guitar. Then I found out the Blues and the harmonica. So, I knew that even I could play other genres like rock or samba I would always find my truth in blues and jazz. I could putt jazz and blues on everything I played. I’ve got a lot of friends who say that once you get in touch to music you can’t quit anymore. Many people use music to live, some take music as a secondary activity (because money talks) and some are taken by music to be tools of transformation. I try to be the third type.

JBN.S: – What got you interested in picking up the guitar?

TA: – I think guitar is the most popular musical instrument in Brazil. We use to say everybody in Brazil plays guitar. In Brazil we have different words for guitar and electric guitar (violão and guitarra, respectively). I love both instruments and I fell free and still when I play guitar, especially when improvising. I studied classical guitar and Brazilian music for nylon guitar in the university as a supplementary instrument (I’m graduated in Composing and Conducting). Also, I’ve always been a self-tough jazz musician. I’m sure I didn’t pick up the guitar. The guitar and I simply were predestinated to meet up (laughs). Do you know the Japanese legend of the red string of fate?

JBN.S: – What teacher or teachers helped you progress to the level of playing you have today? What made you choose the guitar?

TA: – Everything I learnt about jazz music came from watching musicians, asking questions, talking to people, reading, research, and experiences. Although I have had a formal formation, it was focused in classical music. Anyway, it shows me music is always music, although it carries many faces. You always can learn from others experiences and genres. I had some very good music teachers and they surely made the difference. Education can bring us transformation and kind of enlightenment about everything.

JBN.S: – How did your sound evolve over time? What did you do to find and develop your sound?

TA: – Art and music are paths of self-knowledge. So, I’m continuously developing my sound as I do my voice, my thoughts, myself. In life we are always learning from our mistakes. It’s the same about music. Mistakes aren’t what don’t sound good. They are what don’t match to yourself, your truth. My sound is a consequence of my own development.

JBN.S: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

TA: – Some years ago I could practice for more than 7 or 8 hours a day without getting tired. Of course you will have better results if you practice with planning and definitive chief aims. However, to me, the most important thing is not to become a robot or a copy of somebody else. It’s very important having a wide view about what you are doing and knowing why you are doing. Currently, my routine starts with warm up, scales, arpeggios, melodic patterns, rhythm patterns, chords progressions and finally repertoire and composition. Each part of the study can take just a few minutes or many more according to available time and goals.

JBN.S: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now?

TA: – I like full chords such as the ones with two extensions. But in music is very important to have contrast between elements. I’m very used to twelve bar blues progression and its variations. Very often I think in terms of small progressions, which I can do variations according where I’m going. It’s very important to create your own progressions and make your own choices without get obsessive about doing something completely different of what someone else already did. Brazil is a blend of everything. So, like everybody, I use to be a blend of everything I get in touch and I use this fact to learn and to find out where I can go.

JBN.S: – What do you love most about your new album: <Blue Spell>, how it was formed and what you are working on today. Next year your fans like we can wait for a new album?

TA: – An album is always part of a self-biography. You can be aware or not this fact. Blue Spell is formed by many elements of my path as a musician and/or a person. In Blue Spell I play guitars, harmonica, bass, pan, cookies tin cans, hair brushes, pot with rice, everything. It is a strange and interesting way of being alone and accompanied at the same time. Some tunes were being composed until be recorded. Some like “So Far Away From Nothing” (a kind of folk jazz) are almost completely improvised. In Blue Spell I could explore things I can’t do when I’m on stage. I made it to be an album to be listened mostly at home in a reflexive and introspective mood. For the next year, I’m preparing at least two new projects, both featuring solo instruments. I’ve thought a lot about an album for solo guitar (or using two or 3 guitars) and another one for solo harmonica. Some of my last concerts were solo concerts, which I played guitar and harmonica. I really love solo formats.

JBN.S: – Many aspiring musicians are always looking for advice when navigating thru 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?

TA: – I follow all Monk’s advices (laughs). There’s something I’ve learnt regarding anything you want: you have to work a lot and to keep yourself active. Being positive always helps you keep doing positive. It’s much more than business, it is a way of life. It’s very important to be authentic, true to yourself and to believe in your dreams.

JBN.S: – Аnd furthermore, can jazz be a business today or someday?

TA: – I’m fully sure about this. Actually, it already is. In a different level it was in past. Nowadays is very hard to live by playing only jazz or mostly jazz. You can find courses in schools and universities focused on jazz. But they are very often too worried about to teach the musical structure itself. In many cases, the students only play professionally when they finish the course and in the majority of the situations they have no idea about “real life”. Life doesn’t happen linearly. In my opinion, the jazz musicians (as any other musician) have to live the music in a more true way and take it seriously since the time spent in practicing and study until to know how much to charge for a performance. I believe we have to take the meaning of professionalism to all levels.

JBN.S: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

TA: – Standards take time to become standards. I’m sure many tunes unknown now will be standards in future. But we have to accept the fact everything is changing all the time. These standards tend to sound more and more older unless we have new versions. The jazz tends to sound more and more older unless we have more and new composers. We already have examples of this. You can find versions of Autumn Leaves or Take Five; for example, in many different ways since very good versions until the most plastic music the industry can make us swallow. It’s very easy to find young (and not so young people as well) changing the way of playing jazz. I’m sure we cannot depend of standards to keep the jazz alive. We only can get people interest in jazz if we play jazz, if we take jazz as a music genre as any other and not as an elitist genre or music only “supermusicians” can play and cult people listen to.

JBN.S: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

TA: – Music was Coltrane’s spirit because he was an instrument of music. So do Coltrane, I also believe my music is a path of self-knowledge and somehow it is my own search for spirituality. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain this kind of concept because people are too much linked to strictly word’s meaning. If you replace the word “spirit” for “essence” or something else that drives your life you surely will understand what Coltrane intended to say. As I said, my album Blue Spell is a little part of this my path of self-knowledge that I could bring to conscience. I don’t know if there’s a single one meaning of life. I believe there are a wide and shared meaning of life, which belongs to all of us, and individuals meanings as well. To find out your individual life’s meaning is surely one of these meanings.

JBN.S: – What are your expectations of the future? What brings you fear or anxiety?

TA: – I try not to think too much about unplanned things in future. At the same time, I use to be quite positive about everything. As a rational person, I think if you are working on what you believe, you will be successful in any level. Of course many people have their lives turned suddenly for unexpected or unplanned things, but many others (the majority) build their careers based in hard work, dedication, patience, focus, time and respect to themselves. So, I try to keep on working on what I believe and what brings anything good. I always try to work on what take us away from superficiality.

JBN.S: – What’s the next musical frontier for you?

TA: – Myself. At the same time I’m used with some musical places, it’s very important to reinvent myself time after time. Somehow, being in touch to contemporary classical music and the academic context makes me moving through several and different fields. Also, I’ve been my own frontier since I chose to try being a better person and, consequently, a better musician. That’s why I call myself magician. If I’m able to bring consciousness’s changes to myself, I can turn my music and my life good and useful. If I’m able to become someone else better than I am today I can be part of the changes I believe and expect to every one. Of course my music will reflect all this process.

JBN.S: – Are there any similarities between jazz and world music, including folk music?

TA: – There are similarities between all kinds of music. I am not able to say what jazz is, although I can recognize it and mention many elements of its musical structure and musical practicing. Also, a tune itself cannot be jazz. To me, nowadays, to think about the concept of jazz or folk music out of context is quite strange. It is much more about how than what. In terms of industry, any kind of music can be presented as any genre. Just look around. At the same time, we are always trying to find something that can describe somehow what we are doing. How many people have you heard to say they don’t like labels? It is a difficult balance between musical parameters and industrial interests. And both are in continuous change.

JBN.S: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

TA: – Tom Walsh, Kodály, Pharaoh Sanders, Chris Potter, John Coltrane, Rodriguez, The tallest Man on Earth, Mark Knopfler, Joe Pass, Muddy Waters, Charlie Parker, Caetano Veloso, Chico Buarque, Russel Malone, Luiz Gonzaga. I’m listening music all the time. While I’m cooking, studying, writing, going somewhere, etc. I listen to everything and never stop listening the classics such as Charlie Parker, Coltrane, Grant Green, for example.

JBN.S: – What’s your current setup?

TA: – For performances, my main instruments are an Ibanez jazz box, a Gibson SG and a Fender American Stratocaster. I’ve performed using more often the Ibanez than any other guitar. I use a Recording King RM991 resonator mostly for recordings (used it in the tunes Labirinjito and So Far Away From Nothing). As for the harmonicas, almost all of them are Hohner, which my favorite one is the Special 20. My amp is a Peavey Bandit, which gives me a full range of sounds using clean tones and even more aggressive and bluesy sounds. I’ve got a lot of pedals but I don’t use all of them very often. I really like my Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer and my Marshall Bluesbreaker.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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