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CONCERT REVIEWS

Alex & Nilusha Melbourne International Jazz Festival
Review by Liza Dezfouli
Australian Stage
May 31, 2015

Fresh from having won Cuba’s Premio Internacional award for their album Tales to Tell in Havana last month, Melbourne based Alex and Nilusha (with local friends Geoff Hughes and Frank DiSario) opened for The Richard Bona Quintet at The Coopers Malthouse. And what a treat – a double dip of deliciousness this night. Sri lankan born Nilusha Dassenaike is a vocal virtuoso, and she captivated the audience with a stunning display of technique, ranging in style from the most delicate of ‘loungie’ seductive vocal zephyrs to gentle African lullabies to gut-renching dirges for lost worlds, all set against Alex Pertout’s intricate percussion. An exqusitely drawn out classical Middle Eastern lament was the highlight of their set, moving and atmospheric, conjuring ancient times. 


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Alex & Nilusha Melbourne International Jazz Festival
Review by Sean Car
Southbank News
June 11, 2015

Rarely can one leave a musical performance and say that they were left truly entertained, spellbound and captivated by what they saw. However, I would like to confidently speak on behalf of every audience member at Southbank’s Malthouse Theatre on the second night of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and say the Richard Bona Quintet achieved just that. The Cameroonian virtuoso bassist and singer’s international quintet served up an exquisite, fun and engaging showcase of jazz-fusion, Afro-Latin and scintillating solo acapella. And that’s not to take anything away from the evening’s opening act, Alex and Nilusha, which provided the audience with a more than satisfying musical entrée. Sri Lankan-born Nilusha Dassenaike’s voice was like nothing you’ve ever heard come out of a human being. Her virtuosic vocal abilities were more reminiscent of something one might hear from an instrument, ranging from the most delicate to the most deep and enigmatic tones, which transported the listener to another place. All of this in tandem with Alex Pertout’s intricate percussion and interlaced by spells of impressive jazz instrumental.


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Alex & Nilusha
Melbourne International Jazz Festival
Review by David James
The Guardian (UK)
June7, 2013

The festival, which continues this weekend, has so far proved a reliable mirror of global trends in jazz. Two distinct directions are emerging. One is the sophistication of the African-American tradition, which stretches back over one hundred years in an unbroken line from New Orleans marching bands to bebop, funk, soul and rock. The second direction jazz has taken is deconstruction, a sort of musical post modernism. Jazz’s strengths, improvisation and an emphasis on exuberant rhythms, are retained. But other elements are drawn from many different traditions and countries. Another variant of the deconstructionist school of jazz is the blending of different ethnic styles. Percussionist Alex Pertout, pianist Andrea Keller and singer Nilusha Dassenaike, appearing as support for Christian McBride, presented a delicate fusing of different traditions. Especially fine was a version of the Brazilian classic 'Waters of March', which was preceded by a vocal tour of Sri Lanka.


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Alex & Nilusha
Opening for Richard Bona
Review by Carol Middleton
Australian Stage
November 26, 2010

The Melbourne support act, Alex & Nilusha was a good choice to open the show. Also drawing on many cultural sources for inspiration – jazz, Indian and Brazilian – the group had a similar lineup to Richard Bona’s and fine musical versatility.


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Alex & Nilusha Melbourne Recital Centre
Review by Romesh
The Mocha Times Blogspot
November 30, 2010

I was lucky enough to notice a poster for a one-night only show featuring Richard Bona and his group, presenting their latest 'Ten Shades of the Blues' album. It was a must see, and frankly, it was an awesome performance, and surprisingly enough, the support act was absolutely amazing. They simply swept me off my feet. They were, Alex & Nilusha! Highly recommended.


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Alex Pertout Ensemble
Jazz In The Green Room
Review by Adrian Jackson
The Age Arts & Entertainment
23 January 1995

Jazz fans who were puzzled by the axeing of the popular Jazz After Dark program a couple of years back, will be pleased to know that the Arts Centre is giving the late-night jazz format another try. this time with Jazz In The Green Room, on Friday nights in the intimate Green Room, on the Southgate level at the rear of the Concert Hall.  It is a seven-week series featuring some of Melbourne's leading modern jazz ensembles; depending on the attendances, the Arts Centre might decide to continue the format throughout the year, or just run it again as part of next year's Summer Live! series. 

This was a rare appearance as bandleader by Chilean born percussionist Alex Pertout, who has long been a fixure on the Melboume music scene, playing jazz, pop, rock and Latin music as a sideman for everyone from Debbie Byrne to Paul Grabowsky.  He presented two tight sets of easy-to-enjoy Latin jazz, inlvolving pieces written by Latin jazz names like Clare Fischer and Mongo Santamaria as well as original compositions that take a personal look at the idiom.  Usually playing congas, sometimes picking up a shaker or other small instruments, Pertout piloted a band that included singer Yvette Johansson, pianist Colin Hopkins, guitarist Hugh Paddle, trumpeter Rob Planck, bass guitarist Craig Newman, drummer David Beck and percussionist Peter Grech. 

Pertout's interplay with Grech (who mostly played bongos or the more muscular timbales) gave the music its greatest spark. Often, the two would bounce ideas off each other, exchanging rhythmic phrases and percussive flurries, clearly relishing the opportunity to play together. They provided plenty of spice behind the other soloists, who all played melodic leads and solos with commendable skill and understated taste, although none displayed tile ability to really surprise the listener with what they played, or how they played it. 

The highlight of the night was Like A Lover, where the singer was backed only by the three percussionists. The song gradually escalated in power with Johansson's clearly-projected singing and the increasing activity of the drummers, before ending as it began, at a rapt whisper. The Alex Pertout Ensemble will perform at the Concert Hall on Wednesday, as part of El Fuego in the Summer Live! concert series.


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Alex Pertout Ensemble

Bennetts Lane
Review by Marcel Yammouni
Mixdown
28 August 1998

Alex Pertout has been the Australian ambassador for the percussion world for many years. He has one of the longest resumes in a career that has spaned over twenty years. Playing with the likes of the legendary Mark Levine and Hossam Ramzy and many more. Chances are you own an album that Alex has played on, so it was no surprise that the fans came out in full force to view the show at Bennetts Lane. A casual affair on stage with no strict arrangements, lots of space and the best thing, lots of listening was evident throughout the night. The communication between Alex and percussionist Peter Grech was sensational, you can tell they have been playing together for many years.

The inclusion of a former student of Alex's Darryn Farrugia on drums to the line up was also a well thought out move due to his knowledge of the styles of music and flawless technique. Phil Turcio displayed his amazing playing adding the melody and harmony to a very rhythmical unit. The inclusion of current Victorian College of the Arts students Andrea Watson on vocals and Masayoshi Okubo on bass, showed that Alex is open to expose new talent in his band, something that is very pleasing to see. In the future lookout for Alex Pertout's new album which features some fantastic national and international artists like Mike Stern and Hossam Ramzy to name a few.


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Australian Art Orchestra
Alex Pertout Ensemble

Rang Bhavan Mumbai
Review by Narendra Kusnur
Midday Mumbai (India)
23 October 1996

Australalian Jazz-Yatra Was A Smash Hit!
A cyclone did hit Mumbai after all.  It wasn't accompanied by squalls and heavy rains, but by pleasant sheets of sound instead.  The Australian Jazz Yatra, held at the Rang Bhavan over the weekend, was a smash bash.  If the first day was dominated by some powerful solos, Sunday had a super surprise in store, with the 19-member Australian Art Orchestra led by artistic director-pianist Paul Grabowsky.  The large ensemble boasted of some incredibly tight structuring,  With some outstanding improvisation on the saxophones, trumpets and percussion instruments. On the opening day, performances by tenor saxophonist Mark Simmonds and percussionist Alex Pertout were way above the common place. While the former did some wacky improvisations, Pertout impressed with his Latin American rhythms. The festival was organised by Jazz-India and Australia-India: New Horizons. As Jazz-India's Niranjan Jhaveri said, "Australia is a rich country, and this orchestra is one of its treasures." How true!


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Christine Sullivan Project Band
Bennetts Lane
Review by Jessica Nicholas
The Age Arts & Entertainment
15 February 2001

Joni Mitchell. Marvin Gaye. The Doors. Not names one typically associates with a jazz repertoire. But  then, Christine Sullivan has never been a typical jazz singer. In fact, when Sullivan first started performing jazz, she knew only two standards: Georgia, and Summertime. The latter still makes an occasional appearance in her concerts; on Saturday night it was the one true jazz standard on the program. The languid mood usually associated with Gershwin's classic was still there, but in brief snatches, most of the piece had a lively, almost emphatic, feel driven by a lithe, percussive bass line. Of the tunes on offer, one-third were compositions by Joni Mitchell, one of Sullivan's earliest musical mentors, and an artist who continues to inspire the Melbourne singer. There were also a couple of soul numbers by Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield.

If Sullivan's repertoire extends well beyond the parameters of jazz, her approach is equally unhampered by jazz convention. On Saturday night, there was no drum kit on stage, which meant that very few tunes were permitted to swing. Most pieces were built on a relaxed, soulful sway that hovered on the edge of an all-out groove. The absence of a drummer gave the music an open, expansive quality. Alsop's supple bass forming a bridge between Tony Buchanan's legato saxophone and Luke Howard's instinctively lyrical piano lines.  There's an unadorned, stripped-back quality to this ensemble's approach that is very appealing. And even though, on occasion, I longed for the musicians to dig in a little deeper, to push that warm, friendly pulse into a fuller, more pervasive, groove, their tendency to underplay allows the beauty and sincerity of the music to shine. One of the most effective pieces of the evening was Redbone, where Sullivan was accompanied only by percussionist Alex Pertout on the Peruvian cajon (box). And River was performed as a duet with Luke Howard, Sullivan's voice floating over the shimmering piano accompaniment and drawing out the yearning qualities of Joni Mitchell's exquisite tune.


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Australian Art Orchestra
The Malthouse
Review by Johanna Selleck
Herald Sun
29 May 1996

The first concert in the Australian Art Orchestra's subscription series was testimony to the consummate skill and imagination of its members and director Paul Grabowsky. The unique fusion of structured writing and free improvisation produced an alchemy suitable to the 21st century. The outstanding feature of the first half of the program Night Music Suite by Schauble and Grabowsky and The Room That Knew Nothing by Stuart Campbell was the sensitivity of the players and composers. This allowed different colours and combinations of timbre to come to the fore. Both works are richly inventive, with many exciting moments, such as Elliott Dalgleish's solo on bass clarinet in Campbell's work. Constans by Mary Finsterer, tested the technical skills of the ensemble. It is a highly focused and intense work, direct and powerful in its impact.

The reflecting musical ideas between the brass and saxophone sections worked well, however, when the same idea was attempted between the keyboard and piano, it was at times overpowered by the rest of the orchestra. The classical conception of an orchestra underwent an interesting reversal with brass and saxophone sections surrounding the lone violinist, John Rodgers. The program ended with Tony Gorman's Concerto for Piano Accordingly, a work which starts wittily and ends in riotous uproar-a juggling saxophonist and a tuba player cavort mid-stage. This is justified by the fact that the work represents a humorous portrait of the orchestra. The imaginative use of percussion by Alex Pertout and Daryl Pratt with Niko Schäuble on drums was a highlight.


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Alex Pertout Ensemble
Electric Jazz Festival 2001
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Review by Simon Higgins
Drumscene Magazine
Issue 28 - February 2002

The inaugural Electric Jazz Festival 2001 was staged at The Corner Hotel in Melbourne on Sunday 2 December, 2001. Featuring six of Australia's foremost electric jazz bands the event was staged by Vorticity Music, promoters of the likes of Joe Zawinul’s Syndicate, Mike Stern Band, Dave Weckl Band, Bill Evans, Billy Cobham, Kurt Elling and many others. The Electric Jazz Festival was an offering including six of Australia's best, at one venue, on one afternoon. Alex Pertout Ensemble featuring the magical percussionist Alex Pertout, Matt Clohesy on bass, Luke Howard on keys, Darryn Farrugia on drums and guitarist Tom Martin. The ensemble produced world and Latin music of true emotion, the Alex Pertout experience was a colourful and warm journey through some of the festive and intimate sounds from his new cd From The Heart. His performance was inspirational and a stand out feature of the festival.


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