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Sandro Albert: A Bard’s Journey

Sandro Albert: A Bard’s Journey
Raul d'Gama Rose By

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When I got my first deal to record I went deep into composition and I did find it to be like DNA. We all have something that is radically different from each other. You just have to discover it.
His voice is soft and as lyrical as the music he composes and plays. Hearing the young and immensely talented guitarist, Sandro Albert speak can calm even the most frayed nerves. Nervousness was never an issue, but it is always exciting to speak with an accomplished musician. Albert is certainly one. He was born in Brazil and grew up there. Not long ago he moved to the United States—first to Los Angeles, then to New York City, which he has immortalized on Vertical (Daywood Drive Records, 2010).

Completely self-taught, Albert paid his dues in small clubs and shacks on the Brazilian circuit before he graduated to larger venues in Brazil that included music festivals. In 2002, he played at the prestigious North Sea Jazz Festival at the invitation of Musical Director Senders Grand. It was there that he performed with his friend Jimmy Haslip, on bass, as well as with the Yellowjackets' keyboardist, Russell Ferrante.

Albert has also worked with legendary Brazilian superstar Milton Nascimento on his first record, Soulful People (Visom, 2001). For his next album, he invited another friend, the late bassist Dave Carpenter to share production credits. It was on that album, A Beautiful Cloudy Day (Schoots Records, 2009), that Albert began to write counterpoint for horns and strings and produced a wonderful, richly hued sound on that celebrated record. As his writing matured and became more complex, Albert cut one more album featuring Airto Moreira on percussion and also featured Ferrante on keyboards, Edsel Gomez and Tamir Hendelman on piano as well as his regular reeds and woodwinds player, Katisse Buckingham and a plethora of guest musicians—including Mark Ledford. It was after this that Albert got down to working on his ode to New York City, releasing Vertical in the process. This album also features ideas he developed during his celebrated association with the late Jimmy Wyble.

All About Jazz: Let's start at the beginning: what was it like growing up in Porto Alegre, Brazil? The sights and sounds?

Sandro Albert: It was amazing! I had a great time in my childhood, going to school, climbing trees, swimming in the local river in summer; playing soccer and of course, the guitar. Soccer and the guitar were my deepest passions. I started playing the guitar, initially, because of the local girls from my neighborhood in Porto Alegre. I would learn the songs they liked and sing them in order to try and impress the girls. As a young guy I was a little bit shy and the guitar did help me to break the ice with the girls in my near my home and at school.

AAJ: Who was your first teacher and how did he or she help you put the sound and color you heard around you to music?

SA: I consider myself a street player, a self-taught musician who put a lot of time into practicing.

I bought my first guitar from an ice cream vendor who used to stay around the corner from where I lived. It was like a fairy tale: he would sit down under an old tree and play the guitar. I was fascinated and almost immediately hooked. After I got the guitar I came right down to earth. I quickly realized that I was going to have to put some time into it if I want to play. I was going to have to learn a lot about the guitar, but I had no idea where to begin. So I started going out more often to the local bars that offered live music and observe how the musicians played the instrument. Brazil has a long and rich tradition of guitar players. During the breaks in the set I would approach the musicians start a conversation and try to develop a friendship with them. I found that they were eager teachers and I always knew that I had something to learn from them.

Also, my parents were friends with this guy who had a choro quartet. The quartet would get together each week and play all the classics, from Ernesto Nazare to Pixinguinha to Jacob do Bandolim. I learned a lot by just listening at them playing.

AAJ: How much of a factor were your parents in your music formation? You have spoken of your father being an aficionado of Brasilian classical music—Heitor Villa-Lobos and others—How did this shape your discipline and your sound?

SA: My parents were always very supportive. When I decided that music was going to be my vocation and profession they really encouraged me to go ahead and be a musician. My father had lots of good records in our house and guys like Dilermando Reis, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto and Villa Lobos were always playing in our living room over the weekend. Once I decided to play music at a more serious level, my father started to always tease me saying that a real musician would have to learn those—especially Villa Lobos' pieces and play the music of other masters like him. This egged me on and I started putting a lot more time into learning and transcribing their music.

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