Jazz Messengers: The reception of Jazz and its promoters in XXth century Portugal
Jazz Studies are an emergent academic area in Portugal today, as in other European Countries, and especially in the United States. The schooling of jazz (its increasing presence in the academia), strongly rooted in Europe, and the concern shown by other academic areas with the expressive universe of jazz – such as Sociology, Anthropology, Ethnomusicology and African American Studies – have brought to the fore an urgent need to learn more about the social, political and musical universe associated with this musical style that emerged in the United States in the early twentieth century.
Because jazz has survived for many years as a sort of social “outcast”, multiple debates have acknowledged the importance of jazz promoters – here defined as the intermediary figures between concepts and behaviours associated with jazz, and the public and institutions – in the process of acceptance and consolidation of this expressive practice.
In Portugal, jazz promoters were key figures in the path towards inscribing this kind of music within the country’s musical scene, even more so considering that the dictatorial regime empowered in 1933 was, ideologically speaking, extremely hostile towards jazz. The promoters – including journalists, music critics, music lovers, organizers of concerts and festivals, founders of jazz schools – have made way for the knowledge that has been produced about jazz, and were singlehandedly responsible for the road that jazz has travelled until it set itself in our country and started building a “school of Portuguese jazz”.
The very first articles published in Portugal about jazz date back from the first half of the 1920s. They are features or pages about jazz, at the time referred to as Música Hot, Hot Music, or Jazz-band published in periodic publications such as ABC, ABCêzinho, A Tarde, Ilustração Portuguesa, Diário de Notícias or Diário Popular, by such writers as Ferreira de Castro (1925), António Ferro (1924), Almada Negreiros (1925), Repórter X (1926) or Triska (1926). During the 1950s, the country witnessed a consolidation of the jazz advocacy, through the efforts of Luiz Villas-Boas, Raul Calado, Francine Benoît, Manuel Guimarães, Manuel Jorge Veloso, José Duarte, Paulo Gil and Romano Mussolini, as well as through regular articles they wrote for periodic publications such as Arte Musical, Gazeta Musical e de Todas as Artes, Diário de Lisboa, Diário de Notícias e O Século.
Besides the role they played as music critics and as contributors in the press, these promoters starred in other important initiatives for the history of jazz in Portugal, namely the foundation of Hot Clube de Portugal by Luiz Villas-Boas (1948), the organization of Count Basie’s concert in Lisbon (1956), the foundation of Clube Universitário de Jazz by Raul Calado (1958), the radio show Jazz, esse desconhecido, on Rádio Universidade de Lisboa, by José Duarte (1958), the premiere of TVJazz on Rádio Televisão Portuguesa, the first TV show entirely dedicated to jazz, by Manuel Jorge Veloso (1958), and the first International Jazz Festival in Cascais (1971).
In 1976, the album Malpertuis, by Rão Kyao, ushered a new stage for jazz in Portugal: Portuguese jazz creation. This event made way for a set of musicians who would come to establish themselves in the following decades. Within this frame of events, promoters went on to dedicate their time to the advocacy of jazz made in Portugal by Portuguese musicians. The main periodic publications in the country hired specialized contributors, and both radio and TV started their regular shows about jazz.
It is fair to say that jazz promotion in Portugal entered its latest stage in late twentieth century, making its way into the cybernetic universe. The jazzportugal website (1997-), by José Duarte, was followed by a whole list of cybernetic spaces about jazz which came to cause significant changes in the Portuguese public opinion, allowing anonymous citizens to express themselves through the web.
Considering the context that has been described, it is a general goal of this project to start a central area for understanding the phenomenon of jazz in Portugal in the twentieth century: creating a seminal project within Jazz Studies. The project’s specific goals are: to produce analytical knowledge based on disperse documentation about the presence of jazz in Portugal in the twentieth century; to show how jazz was established in the country by its promoters; to place Portugal in the international community dedicated to the production of knowledge about the reception of Jazz in Europe during the twentieth century.
Helder Bruno Martins
Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia - PTDC/EAT-MMU/102624/2008