“I had a very strict practice routine in the early years, many hours trying to get better to start to make a living out of it soon…What I am doing now, when I am not composing, is to try to learn a new tune almost every day and play this as chord melody and try to explore some new possibilities thinking more as a piano player.”Sandro Albert
Sandro Albert is an extremely talented Jazz Guitarist, composer, and arranger who has travelled from his hometown of Porto Alegre, Brazil to the United States in an attempt to connect to the music we call Jazz. He shares with us his dedication to music and discusses why he made the move to States. A very inspiring read
This interview was conducted via email October, 2005. Check out his website at www.sandroalbert.com
JGL: Hi Sandro and thank you for taking the time to participate on Jazz Guitar Life.com. First off, let me congratulate you on the success of your new CD The Color of Things. It is a wonderful CD and I am sure you will do very well with it. But before we discuss The Color of Things any further, I would like to know a little more about your background. How old are you?
SA: I am 38 years old.
JGL: What georaphical area do you live in?
SA: I am living in Glendale Ca.
JGL: What was it like growing up in Porto Alegre, Brazil? Was there a jazz music scene?
SA: I had a wonderful time growing up in Porto Alegre, there was no much a Jazz scene out there but I got exposure to the MPB popular music of Brazil very early in life, styles such as Bossa Nova, Samba and Choro.
JGL: What initially attracted you to jazz music in general and jazz guitar
SA: I started playing guitar when I was about 13 years old influenced by Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Bob Marley etc. At the age of 15 a friend played me a Wes Montgomery record and some Miles Davis that changed my goals in music. I was fascinated with the idea of one day to be able to play Jazz in a more professional way.
JGL: What was your first guitar? What are you playing now?
SA: My first guitar was an Ibanez artist, kind of a 335. Now, I am playing with a Yamaha archtop , vintage natural, totally custom made for me… I used to play with a D’Angelico New Yorker and Yamaha made me a very similar guitar with the same measurements regarding to scale, fret board and size… it is one of a kind. And the second one is on its way. It will be the same model but sunburst color.
JGL: What kind, if any, formal training do you have (ie: lessons, schooling, that sort of thing). And how did these experiences help you get where you are today?
SA: I am pretty much self taught. I always did practice a lot. I did transcribe a lot of music, solos, melodies, harmonies etc. I find that good records are the best teachers one can have. I have a good repertoire of tunes that I know from the top of my head, Jazz standards, bossas, all the classic tunes that you should know if you want to play Jazz. Learning tunes did help me a lot as a composer; I learned about forms and conception.
JGL: Did you know early on that music was something you wanted to do as a career and if so, what were some of the things you did to make this choice work for you?
SA: I knew by the age of 14 that I wanted to play music for life and make a living out of that. I knew that to make it happen I would have to practice a lot and go after opportunities out of my home town. I had to move to Sao Paulo where the scene was much bigger and better…same thing I had to do couple of years after: I had to move to USA if I wanted to play Jazz. Here I would have more access to records and more chance to see good Jazz players gigging live.
JGL: When you were younger what was your musical experiences like? Did you have friends who were involved in music as well or did you have to search for people to play with?
SA: I did lots of club gigs with my friends playing some rock,some bossa, some Jazz, a variety of styles in the early years with my buds.
JGL: Were your parent(s) and family members supportive of your musical career choice?
SA: Totally, all the time, my family are big part of my inspiration in life.
JGL: What was your practice routine like when you were beginning and what is it like now? Are there specific areas that you work on or do you just play through tunes?
SA: I had a very strict practice routine in the early years, many hours trying to get better to start to make a living out of it soon…What I am doing now, when I am not composing, is to try to learn a new tune almost every day and play this as chord melody and try to explore some new possibilites thinking more as a piano player.
JGL: How difficult do you find it making a living as a jazz guitar player, or have you found it to be relatively easy?
SA: It is dificult, but to be honest I can not complain, I am a very happy man.
JGL: How do you go about searching for gigs? And what have you found in your experience that makes looking for gigs easier?
SA: It’s all about getting to know people, try to interact with them and to be able to delivery your talent when you have the chance to do it.
JGL: Could you describe some of your best musical sitautions or experiences and the worst?
SA: The best I would say was the amazing experience to have record with Milton Nascimento in my first solo record, and worst was a big band recording session jingle that I had to sight read at Capitol Records, it was the longest 30 seconds of music of my life.
JGL: What type of musical sitaution do you enjoy the most (ie: trio, quartet, duo, solo, etc.)?
SA: Trio and quartet playing jazz tunes; for my original material I really enjoy the sound of quintet.
JGL: What type of guitar/amp sound do you prefer, or does it change from one situation to the next?
SA: I use pretty much all the time my jazz guitar into my Acoustic Image amp, Clarus SLR and my Raezer’s Edge Cabinet Stealth 12 ER, reverb from the amp, with La Bella Strings Black Tape nylon 014 to 067.
JGL: You have played with some extremely high profile artists Milton Nascimento, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Brenda Russell, Victor Bailey, Abraham Laboriel, Jimmy Haslip, Alphonso Johnson, Russell Ferrante, Kenny Garrett, Harvey Mason, Peter Erskine, Antonio Sanchez, Terri Lyne Carrington, Vinnie Colaiuta, Luis Conte, Leon Ware, and Robben Ford to name but a few. How did some of these associations come to be?
SA: It all come down to song writing, you got to have your own voice to be able to share it with some others musicians. Without my music I would never had the chance to connect with them on that level.
JGL: Do you like performing more as a sideman or as a leader? And if you could comment on the pros and cons of both.
SA: As a leader. I think is cool to be a good sideman but song writing for me is much more important. That’s the only way you will leave a mark one day, and definetely you got to be a leader and be playing your own material out there to do that.
JGL: Now lets get to your CD The Color of Things. As I mentioned earlier, I found it to be a wonderful album filled with warm sounding guitar playing embracing a wide range of musical styles, or to coin a phrase from the title, a wide range of colors. Would you talk about your latest CD and how it came to be and what is the significance of the title?
SA: The Color of Things describe a good moment of my life. It is a continuation of Soulful People my first record but with a more strong Jazz approach. It’s more a band record, almost a live record with a few overdubs. I am very happy for being in this country interacting with musicians of different cultures and being able to exchange with them is totally reflecting in my music.
JGL: Not to take anything away from your musical voice but the title track of your latest CD has some melodic similarities to Pat Metheny? Has he been an influence in your playing and or composition style? Is there a concern that critics and listeners might lump you into a Metheny mold?
SA: They’re already doing that but always in a positive way, people see that my music is diferent. I hardly listen to Metheny, but I have a strong influence of Milton Nascimento, Wes Montegomery and Toninho Horta. I heard many people saying that Pat did copyToninho Horta wich I also dont believe… I think we all being inspired by good music. I like melodies a lot…When I heard Metheny for the first time I also thought that there was some similarity, but I was very ok with that, he is one of the best.
JGL: Speaking of other guitar players, who were your influences on jazz
guitar when you were beginning? Have they stayed the same or have they changed over the years? Who are you listening to today (guitarists or non-guitarists)?
SA: Wes Montgomery has been there as my favorite for long time and always will be a strong reference for me. Jim Hall, Pat Martino and Grant Green, I always go back to these guys as well. I’ve been listening lately Peter Bernstein which is one of the most inspired players that I’ve ever heard, every line that he plays is like a little composition.
JGL: Robben Ford, a wonderful guitar player in his own right appears on “The Color of Things” for one tune. How did you two hook up and how did he come to play on the tune “If We Could Dance Now”?
SA: I was coming back from Holland from the North See Jazz Festival and he was coming back from London, we were in the same plane and I knew his drummer Tom Bretchlein who had also played with me several times, he introduced me to Robben and couple months after when I started to record The Color of Things, Jimmy Haslip did hook us up to do the session.
JGL: On “The Color of Things” you not only play an electric hollow body but also a classical as well as 6 and 12 string guitars. Do you find that you approach each instrument differently according to thier distinctive timbre or is there no significant change in your playing style on either electric or acoustic?
SA: Not really, I think that my approach to eletric has a lot of the acoustic school, I use pick and finger all the time and when I am comping is a lot more fingers then pick.
JGL: Your recordings so far showcase your playing and original compositions. What are the challenges of coming out with an entire CD of purely original tunes? Have you ever thought of recording an album of just standards or is this something that doesn’t interest you?
SA: In this moment I am very into to do originals to the challenge of find more and more my voice, but I would like to do some day a record playing tunes streching it like Keith Jarret does but I am not there yet.
JGL: Is there a major difference between your musical experiences in Brazil in contrast to your American experiences?
SA: Yes. In Brasil I had to be the sideman that I dont dig much in these days to be able to pay my bills, of course that added a lot in my musical experience. Here I got the chance to do my original stuff and improve as a Jazz musician.
JGL: Have you been touring to promote the new CD and if so how’s it been going?
SA: I did tour more in Europa and Soulth America with Soulful People my first record. I play very often here in Ca with my quintet and now I have a new management, Jeff Neben who is also mannaging the Yellowjackets and we got a good plan to put this band on the road all the time.
JGL: What are your plans for the immediate and extended future?
SA: I have an all acoustic project almost finished with strings, horns, winds, perc. and voices, Jazz/classical, very ECM stuff, but I will do another record with my quintet before I release this material.
JGL: Has your impressions and experiences of being a Jazz Guitar player been what you had expected when you first decided to become a musician?
SA: I am a very grateful with my musical life and I want to work harder for the fun it can be.
JGL: Have you ever had second thoughts about your choice to have music as a career and if so, what other career path do you think you would have followed had you not been a guitar player.
SA: I never had second thoughts. But, would be fun to be a secret agent (just kidding).
JGL: Where would you like to see jazz guitar go in the coming years?
SA: Radios given more air playing to us and more fresh music around.
JGL: Apart from music what other pursuits do you enjoy doing?
SA: Hiking with my wife and friends, good food and collecting watches.
JGL: Any advice for the younger guy or gal who is thinking about playing jazz guitar?
SA: Practice and practice but don’t see your whole life through a fingerboard of a guitar.
JGL: Thank you Sandro for taking the time to participate on Jazz Guitar Life.
SA: Thank you for featuring me Lyle.