Luis Vicente - Listening and focus

Andrzej Nowak
Autor zdjęcia: 
Gaert Vandepoele

Today, on May 5, the "Luis Vicente Residence in Poland" begins. This is a special kind of traveling festival of improvised music, organized by the Spontaneous Music Tribune (detailed information was already published on these pages).

Five days, four cities, nine musicians from Poland and abroad, and a leading Portuguese trumpet player. During the tour, there will be the world premiere of the album "Live at Ljubljana", which Vicente recorded together with the Belgian pianist Seppe Gebruers and Dutch drummer Onno Govaert. The publisher of the album is the publishing series Multikulti Project and Spontaneous Music Tribune.

Before we go to concerts, before we listen to a new album, we suggest an interview with a musician, carried out specifically for the aforementioned events.


In a few days a new trio with your participation will be released by the Polish label. Among other things, on this occasion you are going to Poland for several concerts. There are many reasons we talk today on the Polish portal. Let's start with the CD and partners  you recorded it with. Bring them closer, also an idea for an improvising trio in such a personal and instrumental composition, and  tell about the recording that took place in concert circumstances.

I consider this group a very special one, makes me play differently from all others. It's always surprising we never now which direction music will go, from jazz to contemporary, from abstract to experimental minimal.

Seppe and Onno are fantastic, young players but mature and talented, some of the musicians I love to play with the most. We've been working together for the last three years and it's been very interesting since the beginning.

We play without bass, but we don't feel like the music needs it, sounds good without and we decided to keep it like that. We even discussed at the beginning if we should add it.

The album Live at Ljubljana was recorded a year ago during the Sound Disobedience Festival and it's the full concert exactly as it was played.

Let's talk about the concert tour. The idea is based on the presentation of two slightly different three-person sets with your participation. The first is the trio that we mentioned a moment ago. The second one is the composition with Michał Dymny on the guitar and Vasco Trilla on the drums. You will play two concerts almost every day. Is it a big challenge for the trumpeter? What do you expect from this route?

I'm really excited about this tour. First of all it will be my first time in Poland, a country I'm really curious about. I heard so many stories about the beauty of the cities, the culture, the people and obviously the musical scene as well.

It will be great to have a chance to present our debut album and bring our music to a new audience, a very good opportunity for the trio to play during the Festival in Dragon and all these venues in several cities.

Playing two different groups combinations is something that doesn't happen every time. It's motivating that alongside  our trio the other group will be a blind date. That’s why we never know  if the music is good or not, sometimes it works sometimes not. And that's why it's so interesting when you meet the person the first time and it happens live on stage. I really love this opportunity that happens only in improvised music.

And yes, playing two concerts the same night will be definitely challenging, you have to find a balance between the emotional and the physical side (endurance!) and at the same time sound interesting. I'm motivated and really excited about this moment, counting the days.

Let's stop for a moment on the process of improvisation. You just said that you feel great in completely new, open stage situations. What do you think is more important in the process of improvisation? Is it personal creativity or who you meet on a stage at the moment and how much he can give you in this situation?

I would say listening and focus are the most important parts of the process  in playing improvised-like or composed music. When you're having a conversation with someone you are listening to and then you answer according to what the other is saying, there's an issue being discussed. If you don't pay attention then it makes no sense, you're just wasting your time and it is "empty" and not interesting. It becomes a monologue, the same happens in music and other creative arts.

Creativity is obviously important, if you don't have it then you're done, you won’t sound interesting and it will become boring to play or being listened. That's the biggest challenge sound interesting, fresh everytime you play your instrument. And sometimes it's not easy to "renovate" yourself and get inspiration. There are certain things you can't determine or control, you're constantly being affected and influenced in a good or bad way by what surrounds you and all of that will come out everytime you're playing.

You have to be in balance, body and mind working consonantly together, then you just have to be with people you love to play with, open your ears and let things happen and flow naturally. That’s how it should be.

I have the impression that one of the musicians you understand with best in creative music is the excellent guitarist Marcelo Dos Reis. You've recorded a whole lot of great music. I know both of you personally, I noticed that first and foremost you have an incredible respect and you appreciate each other. Tell us about this friendship.

I would say I don't have a musician I like to play more or that I can consider him my favourite musician, I like and admire the musicians I use to play with, all of them have a characteristic that make them special. Since long ago I only play with musicians I like, I can not see myself sharing my values with someone I don't like or just don't appreciate his playing. I like to learn with people who is next to me and giving and receiving, like someone already said: "sharing is caring...". I like to share the good things in life, love good and simple people, just can't stand divas or people that for some reason like and need to show that they are too important or superior when they are sited next to you.

Marcelo is an interesting and creative musician, one of the few (not many) guitar players I love to work with and he's a good friend too. He's doing a great job as a musician and also with his own label Cipsela. We've been working together almost for 10 years.

Mark Corroto from All About Jazz writes in liner notes to the album "Live at Ljubljana" that he hears a lot of influences in your playing, even Louis Armstrong himself. Please tell me about your inspirations to play jazz and improvised music. Who and what formed you as a musician?

We have all those trumpet players: Miles, Don Cherry, and Booker Little, Kenny Wheeler, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Dorham, and Mongezi Feza. All of them had a big influence on me. On other instruments I also love the music of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy and Evan Parker among so many others. I always was and I still am interested in listening and playing different kinds of music, from electronic to noise, from world music to classical, also rock.

I'd say these are the obvious and expected influences on a musician, then there are other things that inspire me, for example nature. I grew up at the countryside and coast and that is a big inspiration, all the environment that surrounds you, sounds of birds, water, the smells, landscapes. I also love the ocean, I surf and spend a lot of time on the beach, it's where I really feel like home. Living in communion with nature is speechless…

Everyone was important for my playing, everyone who taught me or played with me, from the early beginning till now.

Soon, your next album will be released in Poland. This time it will be a trio with saxophonist Yedo Gibson and perfectly known in Poland drummer Vasco Trilla. In my opinion this is a completely different music than the one you play with Seppe and Onno. I am asking you for a comment and impressions of cooperation with these musicians.

Completely different kind of music this trio, experimental, abstract, lot of extended technics, I never recorded anything like this before.

This group was a suggestion from Yedo. We talked about it and decided to go to studio, but we didn't write anything or talked about compositions or ideas besides sound. The album is only focused on sound.

Yedo and Vasco are awesome players, some of the best improvisers I've ever played. And when you're playing with people like them it's very easy to get into a place where you feel and hear that music is happening, everything is clear, no hesitations. Curious to see how the album will receive by the lovers of this music.

Tell us about Lisbon. About musicians, about places where you can play good music. Is an improvising musician able to survive in this city? My question is obviously quite perverse. I know that you do a lot of concerts and record outside of Portugal.

Lisbon is a beautiful place to live, there're many things happening, lots of concerts every week, but unfortunately there's just couple of venues that can offer decent conditions. There are new places that open doors to free and avantgarde music like SMUP in Parede and Bar Irreal, there's Hot Club that from time to time accepts less "mainstream" music.

It's difficult to live off this type of music, musicians are forced to give lessons otherwise it would be impossible to survive.

Please tell me about your artistic plans for the upcoming months. What records with your participation, apart from the two that are issued in Poland, can we expect this year? With whom and where will you be giving concerts and recording the music?

This month I have a tour in Portugal with In Layers*) and probably recording our second album. In June I'm playing at Blurred Edges Festival in Hamburg with Echoes of Africa. Also Doek Festival in Amsterdam with the 5tet together with John Dikeman, Alexander Hawkins, Hugo Antunes and Mark Sanders; August - Saalfelden with Chamber 4. There's more to come, but I'm waiting for confirmation.

As I've mentioned before the 5tet album will come out, the debut album from Frame Trio**), my solo, second album from Zwerv***), third album of Fail Better! and I guess it's all.

Luis, big thanks for the interview and see you in Poland!

*) with Marcelo Dos Reis, Onno Govaert and Kristjan Martinsson

**) with Marcelo Dos Reis and Nils Vermeulen

***) with George Hadow, Henk Zwerver, Raoul Van der Weide and Ziv Taubenfeld