10 Questions with Ricardo Silveira

Brazilian guitarist Ricardo Silveira with Connect Brazil

10 questions with Ricardo Silveira reveals a portrait of international musicianship. For the better part of three decades this Brazilian guitarist has consistently and creatively redefined his role in contemporary jazz by successfully balancing the cultures of two countries.

by Scott Adams

The guitarist would be the first to say that looking back is only good for seeing where you were, so it’s fair to ask where he’s headed next – with these 10 Questions for Ricardo Silveira:

10Q: How did you get started with music and who or what sparked your interest – specifically in jazz?

I grew up hearing the Brazilian popular music of the ‘60s and ‘70s (known as MPB), as well as Carnaval music along with American and English rock stars like the Beatles and started  trying to play along with the songs  on radio and TV, using my oldest sister’s old guitar.

Around the age of eleven he took a few formal lessons. I played by ear sometimes only on one string … By the time i got to the equivalent of High School I’d had a few lessons, played some classical pieces and started to play in school music Festivals.

At about 16 or 17 years old I saw a Jazz group led by composer and alto sax player Victor Assis Brasil  with Marcio Montarroyos on trumpet and it made me go look for jazz records.

10Q: Why did you decide to go to Boston’s Berklee College of Music and how did this decision influence your career?

I had by then decided to become a musician but really had no idea what kind of a career I could have, it was just that I could not think of anything better to do… a few of my friends (guitarist Victor Biglione and trumpeter Marcio Montarroyos) had both gone to Berklee and when i got into College for music in Rio (Escola Nacional de Musica) there was no guitar chair. I tried playing violin but that did not last long.

I found out that Berklee had summer programs and convinced my mother to send me to what at the time was a 7 week program. When I got there my friend Celia Vaz (composer, guitarist, singer) told me i should apply for a scholarship or fellowship and I stayed in school for the fall and next spring.

I returned to Rio a year later for a vacation, got to play with Marcio Montarroyos’ group for two months and then went back to Berklee where I stayed for another year.

During that second year at Berklee i started playing gigs around town on a Latin Band called Estrelas Latinas, recommended by guitarist Bill Frisell who was already very busy so he “gave me ” that gig.

Brazilian trumpet player Claudio Roditi was another great musician I met in Boston and when he moved to NY I was invited to join Herbie Man’s band. Herbie was looking for a young  guitarist that could play Brazilian and some jazz, so Claudio recommended me and I moved to New York.

So, the influence that going to Berklee (or going to Boston USA) had in my life was big. I was living by myself for the first time, in another city and country and language and surrounded by lots of talented musicians from different parts of the world.

What was supposed to be a two month trip became a much bigger thing that is still going on.

10Q: What was the most impacting moment in your career as a musician?

There are many impacting moments for different reasons… Playing at Carnegie Hall with Herbie Mann in 1978 with my mother (first time she saw me play in public) and one of my sisters in the audience is one that comes to mind.

Recording a live album with Milton Nascimento and Wayne Shorter(‘Barca dos Amantes’) after being a huge fan of both – and the ‘Native Dancer’ record is another…

10Q: In your opinion, how is Brazilian music perceived in the international music scene and what’s the future of Brazilian Jazz?

Brazilian music is recognized worldwide for its excellence – as is football (or soccer as they call it in the US because in the US football is played with the hands but that is another story…)

Vila Lobos, Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto, Milton Nascimento, Sergio Mendes, Gilberto Gil were already known and very respected when i first went to Boston. The affinity between jazz and Brazilian music is always going to be there and there is room for all kinds of possibilities that shall keep us interested hopefully.

10Q: Is there any advice that you would give to musicians who are just starting, especially those trying to make a career in Brazil or abroad?

Well, put in the time if you love it . That was what i always heard and it seems to remain true. Practicing… that is always good advise…having a notion of where you can work and make a living is something hard to teach and very important.

10Q: You lived in the United States for quite awhile: What are few of your best memories, and do you miss living here?

I’m always coming back and forth and feel very much at home here. I just played a couple gigs in Los Angeles and on a couple recordings and i have many very dear friends so I try not to stay away too long.

10Q: We think that your ‘Small World’ album is one of the best Brazilian Jazz albums ever recorded. Which one is your favorite, and why?

Thank you! It’s hard to pick a “favorite child” but ‘Noite Clara’ being nominated for 2004’s Latin Grammy – Best Instrumental CD made me very happy.

10Q: How is your TV show doing? What’s it all about and can we watch it online?

I was the host of Estudio 66 for three years and it was an amazing experience to record 73 shows with the same number of guests. Basically I played with the guests as in a  musical conversation.

10Q: You seem to be staying busy as a producer these days (We loved your project wiith Emilio Santiago). Who else have you worked with lately?

I have co-produced João Bosco’s ‘Não Vou Para O Céu Mas Ja Não Vivo No Chão’ CD with his son Francisco Bosco and that led to playing with him (João Bosco) ‘live’ again after many years.

I toured with him last year and there are some shows with him coming up in the fall that I’ll be participating. I’ve recently produced a very talented young singer, Liz Rosa. The CD has her name and it’s her first.

10Q: You have lots of fans here in the USA. When will we see you performing here again?

Hopefully very soon!

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10 Questions with Ricardo Silveira