Gonçalo Almeida - Creation of interesting music momentum. An interview

Andrzej Nowak (http://spontaneousmusictribune.blogspot.com/)

Gonçalo Almeida, a Portuguese double bass player and bass guitarist, is perhaps one of the most versatile musicians in the widely understood European scene of improvised music. His stylistic interests range from the aesthetics of punk, metal & noise (such as Albatre, Ikizukuri, Roji, Low Vertigo), through free jazz (LAMA, Multiverse, Tetterapadequ, The Attic) and eclectic fusion & folk jazz (Spinifex, Bulliphant), for improvised chamber music (The Selva). At the beginning of the next week, the musician will be visiting Poznań, at Improvised Three-Days, which crowns the winter and spring part of the concert cycle "Spontaneous Live Series - Live in Dragon 2019!". He will present himself in two, three-person teams, very different from each other. We invite you to read the interview that was conducted with the musician last week.

Hi Gonçalo. We are talking about your visit to Poland at the beginning of April. This will be not your first time in this country?

Actually I had the chance to play some years ago in several cities (Lodz, Warsaw, Krakow, Bydgoszcz, Wroclaw, Lublin), during different occasions, with groups such has Spinifex, Atos and LAMA. Having specifically in Lodz worked has well with modern dancers.
So far my experience in Poland has been extremely positive due to the great and enthusiastic audiences we have found.

The reasons for your visit are two. The first is called Multiverse, the second is Low Vertigo. Although both trios move freely in the ocean of free improvisation, they will grow like heaven and hell. Could you please tell the readers of Jazzarium about both these intriguing trios?

Yes, both are groups of totally free improvised music, and it’s right to say they explore my Ying and Yang.
In Multiverse I explore the fully acoustic options of sound and texture on double bass, having a relation with the horizons of free jazz and textural improvisation.
On the other (Low Vertigo), I prefer to pick the electric bass, and go for improvisation that goes to a much more visceral and noisy approach. Somehow where my rock/metal roots can be explored.
Totally free form it’s what both these trios have in common.

Well, let's talk about those rock and metal roots in your music. How did you grow up, where did you learn to play music? How did your road from rock to improvisation look like?

I enjoyed lots of rock/metal music during my high school life. Metal and heavy rock bands were the inspiration at those times, spending hours listening music with friends, trading records and playing bass in several garage bands for fun.
Later after finishing high school, I’ve started music studies on double bass at the jazz school of Hot Club of Portugal in Lisbon. There I've got via the "door" of jazz my first steps in formal music studies, following a year later also studies at the classical conservatory in Lisbon. 
Jazz was a beautiful discovery, which introduced me later into free jazz and free form music. After finishing my formal studies was time to play and do whatever I felt was my music. So defiantly creative improvisation it is something I enjoy a lot, either with a harsh electric tone or in a more subtle and acoustic set.

You have lived outside Portugal for years. Why Holland? Why Rotterdam?

I end up following studies in The Netherlands at Rotterdam’s Conservatorium in the jazz department, that’s the main reason I end up in this specific city. After I decided to stay due to the fact I have many music projects in The Netherlands and I’m able to travel and tour quite often.
Anyway I feel more like an European musician then belonging to any specific scene. And that feels great!

If we have already come to improvised music... What do you think is the most important, that the improvisation can proceed freely so that the final effect will satisfy musicians and also listeners?

Generally improvised music has a lot to do with communication and interaction between musicians. For this reason these dialogues can happen without any plan and therefore this can be extremely interesting or on opposite ways poor and boring. That’s the risk of playing without “net” and what makes it adventurous and enjoyable.
Of course most experience musicians on the genre have the knowledge and tools to make better decisions when playing, which can create great and unique moments that can be capture by the listeners.
What I think is the most important is not the musician or the listener; in the end important is the creation of interesting music momentum, made of musicians and audiences.

Do you prefer to improvise in a bigger band or rather in trio, duet or even solo? Do you have some favorite instruments to cooperate with your double bass or bass guitar?

I like to play in any format, of course the levels of interaction are much variable depending on the instrumentation and number of players. Generally I play most in smaller ensembles (duo, trio, quartet) due to the fact it’s more easy to organize logistics, etc … but large units of improvisation can be extremely interesting because the range of dynamics and textures can be wider and vast. 
Defiantly I love double bass solo or any ensemble involving only double bass players.
In terms of interaction with favorite instruments, it’s difficult to point any favorite. I think all instruments can offer a wide range of interesting sound possibilities and interaction, the question it’s not so much the instruments, it’s what the players can do with it.

Tell us now about your musical inspirations. Which bands, which musicians have made a special mark on you? Was there concert/ gig that completely changed you as a musician?

Well hard to answer because there are so many, so I will stick to all great bass players from Charlie Haden , Scott LaFaro, Barre Philips, Stefano Scodanibbio, Peter Kowald, Joelle Leandre, Francois Rabbath, Carlos Bica … wow so many interesting voices all of them become references to me. I guess when I've heard first time Peter Kowald a new door got open for me! Until then I was too busy with mainstream jazz, this was something new and exciting to explore!
The gig that changed me was in fact the one that made me realized I wanted to be a double bass player. A friend got me tickets to join him for a concert in Lisbon 1998 to see the Portuguese trio Azul from double bass player Carlos Bica with Frank Mobus on guitar and Jim Black on drums, at that time I was finishing high school and this was defiantly an overwhelming show, which lead me to choose and search for musical studies and pick up the double bass. I still remember it like yesterday. What a sound!

Now a question that every Portuguese musician is asking. Could you compare the scene of improvised and jazz music in Portugal with, for example, what is happening in the Netherlands?

Well both countries have an interesting scene, nevertheless in both you may find this are very centralized in the main cities (Lisbon, Amsterdam). I mean in other cities also exist but nevertheless they stay a bit in the shadow of these ones. But the general scene is in both countries, very much vibrant and there is a growing interest not only of musicians to make projects, but as well of a growing audience, especially in Lisbon. Me has a Portuguese musician living in The Netherlands try my best to create bridges between both scenes not only for me, but to introduce musicians on both sides.

Let's get back to the beginning of our conversation. On April 8th and 9th you play in the Dragon Club with your two trios, you will probably also play something extra. Please, invite Polish fans of free jazz, improvised music, as well as heavy rock, for these concerts.

I already did! Thanks for the invitation, looking very much forward. Dziekuje bardzo!

Thank you so much for this conversation!