Sara Serpa: A Musical Journey
AAJ: You come from a country with rich musical and particularly song heritage. How did that influence your own development as a vocalist?
SS: Curiously, Fado didn't influence me at all until I moved to the United States. I only started listening to Fado around 2006 or so. My musical education started with classical music, and although there were other genres played at my house, like Brazilian music, rock, and later on in my teens, more punk and electronic music, Fado wasn't that much present. I recently understood that Fado was associated with the dictatorship in Portugal that ended in 1974 and my parents were part of the generation who fought against this regime, so naturally they did not listen to Fado.
AAJ: Having had western classical training ,what attracted you to improvised music and particularly jazz?
SS: I studied piano for 10 years and studied classical singing as well. And during all those years, I was always afraid of failing in any musical context. Going to a jazz school and entering this new world opened many doors for me, as I could use all my musical skills and impulses and still create something, interacting with other musicians. To learn harmony and improvisation was something that unfortunately I never explored while at the Lisbon Conservatory, and once I started understanding more about it, it allowed me to find my own style and voice within it. And jazz, it's such a sophisticated music. It is so complex and advanced, from [trumpeter/singer] Louis Armstrong to [singer] Abbey Lincoln.Its social context and message was also something that attracted me, as there was such a vital energy about the way the old school musicians played.
AAJ: What musicians and records influenced your growth as an artist?
SS: Some musicians that influenced my growth as an artist were my teachers: Ran Blake, [pianist] Danilo Pérez, Greg Osby, and [singer] Dominique Eade. Not only they are amazing musicians, but also they are amazing musicians who have their own voice in the jazz world. Ran Blake and Danilo Perez really gave me wings to fly, encouraging me and giving me so many opportunities to be a better musician. They also taught me the social importance of the music we are making, and through their brightness and talent, showed me a very human side of jazz. . Greg Osby listened to my music and gave me a lot of opportunities to perform and record with his band, and basically he introduced me to the NY scene, when I joined him at the Vanguardthat was a great school as well. Dominique Eade welcomed me in Boston and opened the NEC doors to me, accepting me as her student, while I was searching for a creative environment. Generosity, competence, trust and solidarity is something very important in music and all of them in their own way, taught me that.
It's hard to name some records. I can name musicians who influenced me as student, at school: Miles Davis (with his second quintet), John Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Hermeto Pascoal, Theo Bleckmann, Paul Motian, Tom Jobim, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Brad Mehldau, Bill Evans, Louis Armstrong. Chico Buarque, Björk, Wayne Shorter, Abbey Lincoln, Ella Fitzgerald, Mark Turner, Vardan Ovsepian, André Matos, Maria João ... but the list keeps changing, and coming back and forth, each month, each year, as the growth never stops....
AAJ: What are your "desert island" discs and why?
SS: Oh, this is a tough question. To explain why I love certain music... here are a few. Bu these days, with the iPod, do I really need just to pick a few?
Carmen McRaeBittersweet (Koch, 1964)
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis ArmstrongElla & Louis (Verve, 1956)
Silke-Thora Matthies and Christian KohnBrahms Four Hand Piano Music Vol. 4 Ein Deustches Requiem (Naxos, 1999)
Tom JobimMatita Perê (Polygram, 1973)
Sarah VaughanLive at Mr. Kelly's (Emarcy, 1957)
PixiesCome On Pilgrim (4AD, 1987)
FarafinaFasco Denou (Real World, 1993)
Miles DavisNefertiti (Columbia, 1968)
Charlie HadenThe Golden Number (A&M, 1977)
Ran BlakeWende (Owl, 1976)
DeerhoofDeerhoof vs. Evil (Polyvinyl, 2011)
Paul Motian, Joe Lovano and Bill FrisellSound of Love (Winter & Winter, 1995)
Béla Bartók}} Bartók Plays Bartók (Pearl, 1995}
Milton NascimentoMilton (EMI, 1970)
Abbey LincolnStraight Ahead (Candid, 1961)
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John ColtraneLive at the Five Spot (Blue Note, 1958)
Meredith MonkImpermanence (ECM, 2008)
Duke EllingtonPiano Reflections (Capitol, 1953)
Johann Sebastian BachThe Art of the Fugue