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Interviews

Sara Serpa: A Musical Journey

By Published: January 29, 2013
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
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
to [singer] Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
1930 - 2010
vocalist
.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 Perez
Danilo Perez
Danilo Perez
b.1966
piano
, Greg Osby, and [singer] Dominique Eade
Dominique Eade
Dominique Eade
b.1958
vocalist
. 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 Vanguard—that 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
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
(with his second quintet), John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
, Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
, Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
Carmen McRae
1920 - 1994
vocalist
, Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
, Hermeto Pascoal
Hermeto Pascoal
Hermeto Pascoal
b.1936
piano
, Theo Bleckmann
Theo Bleckmann
Theo Bleckmann

vocalist
, Paul Motian
Paul Motian
Paul Motian
1931 - 2011
drums
, Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
, Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Kurt Rosenwinkel
b.1970
guitar
, Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
, Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
, Louis Armstrong. Chico Buarque, Björk, Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
, Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
1930 - 2010
vocalist
, Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
1917 - 1996
vocalist
, Mark Turner
Mark Turner
Mark Turner
b.1965
sax, tenor
, Vardan Ovsepian
Vardan Ovsepian
Vardan Ovsepian
b.1975
piano
, Andre Matos
Andre Matos
Andre Matos

guitar
, Maria Joao ... 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?


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