Jazz interview with jazz keyboardist Ronaldo Rodrigues. An interview by email in writing.
JazzBluesNews.com: – When you improvise, you know where you’re going. It’s a matter of taking certain paths and certain directions?
Ronaldo Rodrigues: – Certainly. It’s important to keep in mind that when you play, you’re trying to “say” something relevant for the people who listen to you. I think the best way to improvise is to find a good balance between freedom and more structured thing, something that people can assimilate, understand. Music is a special kind of communication.
JBN: – Do you ever get the feeling that music majors, and particularly people who are going into jazz, are being cranked out much like business majors? That they are not really able to express themselves as jazz musicians?
RR: – Well, it’s hard to say…there are all kind of people and all kind of interests in jazz and in any other styles in music. There are musicians that play with an absolute and exclusive passion for music, others looking for fame or pessoal fortune besides music, others looking for enhances their ego, etc. The business issues are ambivalent: sometimes the music can be destroyed by it; other times, they think music as business can be their redemption and the only way of reaching the audience in a considerable scale. Consider to be part of the Music business is a matter of knowing what to expect so it won’t let you down.
JBN: – What about somebody who is really gifted and puts together a band and just gets upset to the point of quitting because of the business aspects-the agents and the clubs?
RR: – As I said before, when someone understands the business mindset it won’t surprise. We should consider that music, as a job, is like any other job – some recognition is possible and is desirable but there will be a lot of day-by-day issues to deal with. Put a (good) band together is a really hard challenge – you have to face different personalities and conciliate different interests of the members. One way to avoid problems with clubs and agents is self-production, but there are great risks involved. You have to be convict and believe completely in the potential of your music.
JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?
RR: – I can’t understand what specifically you want to know in this question. Would you mind to explain me better?
JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?
RR: – Good question. It’s common to some musicians hide the absence of a proper technique as a question like this, establishing a confuse concept and putting intellect and soul as opposites directions in music. This is not true. Intellect brings the tools that one can express fully its intentions, what you are feeling. This is the balance – there is an interdependence between each one. A music only guided by intellect could be cold and music with intense feelings but without directions and good playing could be indigest.
JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?
RR: – Well … sometimes people don’t know exactly what they want in terms of music; most of them are only looking for fun and the artist have a considerable domain of the whole thing. If you offer good music (a music generated from a good balance between mind and soul as you were talking about) people will appreciate. There is some dependency of what you are offering to the people. If you are playing with the intention of establish a communication with the audience, not only playing for yourself, people will be recognize and follow you. But if you do a lot of concessions based on what people already have and already expected you can be put inside a jail. It is important trying to establish a connection doing authentic things.
JBN: – Please any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
RR: – One time we were invited to play in a large studio in Rio, in a festival with several bands in line-up. We were very excited to play there and the show was a very good performance of us. We played for a very young audience that enjoyed a lot our sound. Our drummer Elcio Cáfaro went home just after the performance; he requested a cab and some minutes after entered the car he was stolen and lost several parts of his equipments. We became very sad and disappointed with that ocasion. One friend of us, Luiz Zamith (that Elcio and me play in his solo project) did a mobilization of all our friends and organized a concert to rise funds and donation to Elcio buy new equipments. The concert was well-succeded and our aim was achieved. It was amazing see the solidarity of people in solve this situation.
JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?
RR: – Maybe offering good and consistent possibilities to watch live jazz performances of young musicians. Live music has a great potential to evolve people.
JBN: – How important is it to you to have an original approach? Can you comment on the bridge between being a musician and being a composer?
RR: – Originality is very hard to find because we play a style developed by decades with thousands of songs and musicians envolved. However, every musician is unique (personality, background, influences, etc.). I think the question contains a certain degree of decision of what each one is trying to be – some people are absolutely satisfied and be a kind of human “sound machine” and just play note-by-note and others are looking for use music as a way of expression. Composition is about ideas, but you should put your ideas in practice. I think that a good technic is the most appropriate bridge between both.
JBN: – Do you have an idea of what it is you’re trying to say or get across? Is it an idea or is it just something that we feel?
RR: – Not only one specific thing, because we are all very plural with a lot of things to say.
JBN: – What do you see for your extended future? You know what you have going on? You have life? If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
RR: – Not really. I don’t have specific plans for long time. But, I think that in near future people will appreciate and dedicate time to listen more sophisticated music again, as already happen in other decades or centuries. There are some cycles and specific periods of time were elevated music is produced and appreciated for a large audience.
JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?
RR: – George Benson (70’s albuns), Herbie Hancock, Larry Coryell, Jan Akkerman, Jan Hammer Group with Jeff Beck, Kamasi Washington … great musicians.
JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?
RR: – Always a positive message. Music makes people more united and happy and I really believe in this.
JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?
RR: – Isle of Wight Festival, 1970 … it would be a good idea!
JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?
RR: – I just would like to thank you for the opportunity of talking about music, that one of the things that I love the most and wish sucess for the Jazz Blues News!
Interview by Simon Sargsyan