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Tales to Tell

Review by Leon Gettler
Australian Jazz Net
September 2014

An exceptional album. Their previous album 'Moments In Time' had a folkish feel to it. This one is different; it tells a story, a tale of collaboration between different cultures, South American and Asian, Middle Eastern and European, a blend of jazz, world music, pop and a bit of R&B. The result: a multi-layered cultural mix that can only be Australian, a product of a nation created by immigrants who brought their backgrounds with them and wove it into the nation’s cultural fabric. This is unmistakeably Australian jazz, a genre you wouldn’t hear anywhere else in the world.

To do this, Pertout and Dassenaike have brought together talented musicians from around the world. They have assembled a line-up to die for, bringing together jazz luminaries from Australia and around the world, something that’s rare on any album. That’s only one reason why this album is so captivating.

The album is intensely personal, capturing the Latin American and Southern Asian roots. You can feel it in the first piece ‘Nothing To Hide’ which opens with an Andean feel with Pertout playing the panpipes, bombo, bongos, shakers, glockenspiel and doing the handclaps with Dassenaike’s ethereal voice floating over the top like an ocean wave. The standout feature on this track is the superb piano solo from Dee Dee Bridgewater’s pianist and arranger Edsel Gomez who has also worked with everyone from Gary Burton, Chick Corea and Jerry Gonzalez to Claudio Roditi and Don Byron.

You hear it in the next track too, ‘Little Promises’ which is based on a traditional Sri Lankan folk melody. Dassenaike expands on the theme, taking it in new directions. Listen out for pianist Andrea Keller’s backing on here, making sure she stays well and truly in the background. The highlight on this track is Mike Stern’s guitar that seems to come out of nowhere giving a slight R&B flavour. Stern also features on the track ‘Falling’ and ‘Wanderlust’ His guitar makes an enormous difference here. ‘Falling’ is a track that bursts with joy as we hear Dassenaike’s voice blending in with the bongos, shaker, cymbals and other percussive effects from Pertout.

The cultural mix is also captured perfectly on the track ‘Un Mismo Camino’ which in Spanish means “on the same pathway”. With its Latin American feel, Dassenaike’s voice soars above it, dancing around the rhythms perfectly. Paul Grabowsky’s piano accompaniment is sublimely subtle and it’s capped off by Miroslav Bukovsky’s ethereal voicings on the flugelhorn. Listen out for Egyptian percussionist Hossam Ramzy on tabla, apparently recorded at a London studio, and Cuban violinist William Roblejo.

And to cap off that unmistakably Australian feel, we have the track ‘Clear Water’ which creates a shifting urban landscape. The sound is straight out of the city with street scenes recorded in Havana, Cuba. The feel here is of constant movement and dynamism with Tom E Lewis providing the sound of the didgeridoo and his own chanting vocals against the congas, triangle, bombo and vibes of Pertout. Australian jazz at its best.


Tales To Tell ★★★★★
Review by Trent Bryson-Dean
Drumscene Magazine
December 2014

While it’s certainly not the first time an album has been recorded at different locations around the globe with a host of international performers painting on the musical canvas, this second album release from Alex and Nilusha is a smorgasbord of colour, shade and intricacy. This duo of legendary percussionist Alex Pertout and Sri Lankan vocalist Nilusha Dassenaike truly fit together like hand and glove, creating a delightful world music experience here that is breathtaking from start to finish. With a host of phenomenal ensemble players contributing to this disc, from the distinctive twang of American guitarist Mike Stern, to the ever-tasteful Miroslav Bukovsky (flugelhorn), Paul Grabowsky and Luke Howard (piano), Craig Newman and Evripides Evripidou (bass), Tales To Tell is a smashing follow up that will take the listener on a remarkable musical journey.


Tales To Tell ★★★★
Review by Billy Pinnell
Stack Magazine
Featured Artist
November 2014

Alex is Chilean-born percussionist Alex Pertout who has embellished hundreds of Australian albums, from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to Paul Kelly, Hunters & Collectors and Daryl Braithwaite. His collaborator, Sri Lankan-born singer Nilusha Dassenaike has worked with Don Burrows, James Morrison, Renee Geyer and Ross Wilson. This exceptional release of originals was recorded in Melbourne, Argentina, England, the USA and Cuba with outstanding local contributions. These include pianists Paul Grabowsky and Andrea Keller, actor/musician Tom E Lewis, plus international renowned guitarist Mike Stern (Miles Davis) and Dee Dee Bridgewater’s musical director/pianist Edsel Gomez. The music is an intoxicating fusion of different cultures: Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern with elements of jazz, world music, Andean (Alex playing the panpipes), pop and English folk ‘I Gave My Love A Cherry’ is cleverly grafted to the final track. It’s full of irresistible rhythms born of Alex’s armoury of percussion instruments and the captivating voice of Nilusha who scats and sings in her native voice and English, depending on the mood of each song.


Tales To Tell
Review by Tony Hillier
Rhythms Magazine
November 2014

Sri Lankan-born singer/composer Nilusha Dassenaike and Chilean-born percussionist/composer Alex Pertout present a polished and possibly unique combination of traditional Sinhala melodies, pan-Latin and world music rhythms and jazz textures. Incorporating Kanatic and jazz singing techniques and a huge array of percussive flavours, the album also feature contributions from some of Australia’s finest jazz players.

'Tales To Tell' is dynamic, thanks in part to the consummate lead and rhythm guitar work of US ace Mike Stern on two of the Australia-based duo’s co-writes and a traditional Sri Lankan folk song. The exquisite tabla playing of another distinguished international guest, Egyptian Hossam Ramzy, lifts several other songs, along with Paul Grabowsky’s elegant piano solos.Tom E. Lewis’s didgeridoo fits well with Pertout’s berimbau and some half-dozen more of the author’s arsenal of instruments in the sublime ‘Clear Water’. ‘Nemamusasa / I Gave My Love A Cherry’ adroitly combines Zimbabwean and English folk songs. Dassenaike’s imaginative interpretation of a traditional Sri Lankan piece, ‘The King’s Lament’, is comparable to Anglo-Indian Susheela Raman’s best work.


Tales To Tell
Review by Peter Wockner
Jazz & Beyond
December 2014

One of the beauties of music is that it has no borders. 'Tales to Tell' is further proof that music has wholeheartedly adopted the global village concept of the 21st century. The voice and percussion remain the most primitive forms of musical expression. But here there are many origins of music either implied or used for inspiration from regions including south Asian, Middle-Eastern, African, Caribbean, Latin and indigenous Australia. 'Tales to Tell' is a compelling cross-cultural collaboration for percussionist Alex Pertout and vocalist Nilusha Dassenaike. A number of guests appear including guitarist Mike Stern and pianist Paul Grabowsky. The melodies are both catchy and challenging for vocals but Nilusha’s voice is malleable enough to envelope the harmonies and rhythms with consummate ease.

Four traditional folk melodies are amongst the originals penned by the duo. Pertout uses a variety of modern and primitive percussion instruments. In the Latin 'Un Mismo Camino' he illuminates the rhythms with congas, cajon, shaker, claves, cymbals, vibes and marimba while Hossam Ramzy adds an Egyptian flavour on tabla along with Norton on oud. Grabowsky teasingly plays against the beat and Mike Bukovsky’s flugelhorn provides a jubilant call against the overdubbed background vocals of Nilusha. 'Little Promises' is a traditional Sri Lankan folk song which features guitarist Mike Stern on lead and rhythm guitars. Rhythmically driven, it also features the konnakol (South Indian Carnatic vocal percussion) styling of Pertout. Whilst the level of layering and production with this recording is lofty, it only acts to focus attention on the wondrous voice of Nilusha and the hypnotic kaleidoscope of Pertout.


Moments In Time ★★★★½
Review by John McBeath
The Australian
Mar 31, 2012

Alex Pertout is a highly regarded Melbourne multi-instrumental percussionist, musical author and educator. He has appeared on hundreds of recordings, film and television soundtracks, and in huge numbers of live performances with groups as disparate as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Kevin Borich Express.

Pertout has worked with vocalist-composer Nilusha Dassenaike, of Sri Lankan background, for the past ten years, and their album draws on Latin, Asian and African music styles, all infused with jazz influences in originals and traditionals. This is a formidable undertaking, using up to nine additional musicians and Pertout's astonishing assemblies of percussion instruments - ten on some tracks.

'Free/Male Male', a Sri Lankan folk song, has Pertout employing an ibo pot, kanjira (Indian frame drum), bongos, glockenspiel, shekere (an African gourd shaker), castanets, windchimes and other percussive effects behind Dassenaike's enchanting lead and background vocals, culminating in her counterpoint voicings. There's a fine piano solo from Joe Chindamo, plus a sarod, piano accordion, bass and drums.

Santamaria's 'Afro Blue', in addition to luxuriant over-dubbed vocals, features Pertout's driving congas and sympathetic trumpet and flugelhorn solos from Miroslav Bukovsky. Dassenaike's ethereal ballad 'The Wind', with its dreamy lyrics, uses only a piano trio with percussion, while Pertout's Moments in Time, with Dassenaike's languid words, swings with a gentle Latin beat.


Moments In Time ★★★★

Review by Warwick McFadyen
The Age / Sydney Morning Herald
Mar 31, 2012

Alex is Alex Pertout, percussionist extraordinaire. Nilusha is Nilusha Dassenaike, vocalist extraordinaire. Both are luminaries of the Australian jazz/world scene and have delivered a suite of songs that entrances the senses. Dassenaike brings a warmth to her singing; her interpretation of James Taylor's 'You Can Close Your Eyes' is simply lovely. She and Pertout share most of the song credits and there is not a weak link in the chain. Pertout shows in sublime style how percussion is more than the drum roll, but can be a sparkling joyous rhythm. The duo is joined by Joe Chindamo and Tony Gould (piano), Miroslav Bukovsky (trumpet), Dave Valentin (flute), Craig Newman (bass), David Jones (drums) and Leonard Grigoryan (guitar).


Moments In Time ★★★★★
Review by Trent Bryson-Dean
Issue 68 April/May/June, 2012

Renowned percussionist/composer Alex Pertout and vocalist/composer Nilusha Dassenaike lead this remarkable ensemble that embraces a pleasantly broad jazz and modern world music sound. 'Moments in Time' is a truly exquisite album that is beautiful on so many levels. Performing six original compositions and six rearranged standards, this ensemble plays with consummate professionalism – not a note here is overstated or overcooked from anyone. Pertout and drummer David Jones blend together seamlessly and create a hotbed of rhythm for their fellow band mates; pianists Joe Chindamo, Tony Gould and Andrew Jones, trumpet player Miroslav Bukovsky, bassist Craig Newman, guitarist Leonard Grigoryan, sarod player Saby Bhattacharya and legendary flautist Dave Valentine, to build and create on with much joy and maturity. The true test of this disc is how deeply it continues to grow on you with repeated listens – this is a great disc from a noteworthy, unique musical pairing!


Moments In Time
Review by Peter Kenneally
Jazz Planet / Extempore
April 5, 2012

Dark Star Rising

It's all driven along by and part of the rhythmic net around it: when this happens, and it does often, the album draws you in and entrances you. On the new album by percussionist Alex Pertout and singer Nilusha Dassenaike there’s a fairly even mix of originals and covers, and between songs where the lyrics are prominent and those where the vocal is more an instrumental articulation.

There is a very particularly jazz kind of song, or singing, where the lyrics are lingered over and poured out slowly, as with the title track of ‘Moments in Time’, which has a lingering beauty. In Jobim’s 'Waters of March’ the words, so dense and declensive, are necessarily precise, held in a web of percussion and punctuated by spare, self-possessed piano from Tony Gould. In fact, although most of the piano on the album is from Joe Chindamo, and melds effortlessly with the latinesque, percussive sway of the whole, Tony Gould’s playing counterpoints instead: definitely a combination worth pursuing.

Gould is only present on a couple of tracks, and one of the pleasures of 'Moments in Time' is the way musicians appear and fade away at exactly the right moments. Saby Bhattacharya on sarod lends an ineffably spangly edge to several tracks, particularly ‘Waters of March’. Miroslav Bukosky on trumpet is perfect for the swing of ‘Afro Blue’.

In ‘Between You and I’ a song by Dassenaike herself, a crisp, driven ‘microfiction’ of regret and heartache, the story is real, and the vocals rush playfully along, with many a brave sally against the limits of the line. As if there isn’t enough room in the house of language for the emotions in the song, she breaks out, into a Sinhalese chant, and into knowing, glancing wordlessness.

It’s all driven along by and part of the rhythmic net around it: when this happens, and it does often, the album draws you in and entrances you. Never more so than on ‘Walk with me’, the purest collaboration on show: just the two of them, she her own choir and he a pulsing sun of beats. Pertout is at all times the foundation, however unobtrusively so. He’s like the tortoise supporting the world: and the infinite number of tortoises below as well.

So it’s fitting that to close the album there’s a track that sparely showcases him on the cajon, (that’s that thing that looks like a tea chest, in case you’re wondering) along with Chindamo at his bassgrace best, and Dassenaike at her most carefree. Strangely, for an album centred on a percussionist and a singer, there’s restraint everywhere, and it won’t reach out to the other side of the room and grab you in. Playing it louder isn’t the point, but as soon as the headphones go in and all the timbres and textures of the music can be heard, it’s a lovely experience. Like a dark star, once you get close enough, you’re lost. Enjoy the ride: there’s more light inside than out.


Moments In Time
Review by KC
Popular Percussionist (Canada)
September 15, 2012

In the vast stratosphere of recorded music, percussionist led albums are a rarity. Even rarer still are duo albums which feature a percussionist and likely the most rare of all is a duo comprised of a percussionist and a vocalist. That being said, it’s difficult to determine where the bar is set for such adventurous work. With ' Moments In Time', the inaugural release from percussionist Alex Pertout and vocalist Nilusha Dassenaike, this unique duo proves that if it wasn’t set high before, the bar is indeed set very high now.

The album begins with the title track, 'Moments In Time', an original composition by Pertout with lyrics by Nilusha. It’s a gentle 6/8 which is lightly propelled by Pertout’s fine shekere and conga work. Nilusha’s unique vocal style is evident from the outset here, a slightly behind the beat, relaxing and lingering style, which bodes well for all the selections on the album. The title track serves very well to set the tone for the entire album.

The second track is the classic ' Waters Of March' by Antonio Carlos Jobim. Tastefully done, Pertout displays his excellent ability for creating colours here, which adds additional life to the music. 'Afro Blue', the releases third cut is of course the classic Mongo Santamaria composition. This arrangement features the lyrics written by Oscar Brown originally recorded by Abbey Lincoln. Nilusha’s vocals on this particular track are simply hypnotic following an elegant flugelhorn solo by Miroslav Bukovsky.

Pertout has spared no instrument from his arsenal on this release. The beautifully conceived arrangement of James Taylor’s 'You Can Close Your Eyes' is a prime example featuring a simplistic berimbau and cajon. Often an obscure instrument such as the berimbau can be a distraction within a tune, drawing the listener towards it, making it the focal point of the music. However, in the absence of any other instruments aside from the piano stylings of Joe Chindamo, Pertout’s rhythmic mastery of the berimbau coupled with his emphasis of the beat with the cajon firmly holds the foundation of the arrangement without drawing attention from the melody.

The closest the album ever gets to high gear is the Clare Fischer composed cha cha, 'Morning'. Here, special guest, flautist extraordinaire, Dave Valentin is featured. Valentin as usual is stellar as is the tasteful conga solo by Pertout. Nilusha’s ability for vocal acrobatics are exercised on this track as well, once again showcasing her unique individuality as a vocalist. The true beauty of this release is the interplay between all of the musicians. There’s an overall subtlety. There’s real respect for each other as musicians here and their musical space that can be heard throughout. Everyone complements each other without ever stepping in the way. 'Moments In Time' is an album to be savoured. It beckons to be enjoyed over and over where one discovers new nuances with every listen.

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