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Richard Bona mesmerises the Malthouse

11 Jun 2015

Richard Bona mesmerises the Malthouse Image

Review by Sean Car

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.

What followed was a Richard Bona Quintet performance packed full of surprises and a fixating experience from start to end.

The performance was the ultimate showpiece for crowd engagement, as Bona got the audience involved at every opportunity for sing-alongs and even showed off his musical masterstroke by allowing the audience to provide harmonies.

The result was both atmospheric and moving and one would have been fooled for thinking that the crowd’s contribution was a rehearsed part of the show.

While not a performance for the typical jazz purist, it was display that any lover of music could appreciate, featuring touches of classical jazz sounds splashed against some crazy bass and rich instrumental and tonal elements.

Having collaborated with the likes of Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte and Richard Benson over the years, moments from all three were also very evident throughout the show.

And even without instruments, Richard Bona was just as entertaining.

As well as wowing the audience by using his voice as an instrument through a loop machine to chant, harmonise and even beat-box, the virtuoso was hilariously funny in his own right.

In between and even during songs, his charismatic and joking demeanor had the audience wrapped around his little finger.

Nothing could reflect this more than when the audience stood united at the end of the set, which led to an encore and individuals dancing in the aisles.  

After the opening night of the Jazz Festival legendary duo Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea blew the audience away at the Melbourne Recital Centre in Southbank and the Richard Bona Quintet ensured the momentum continued.

A guaranteed crowd pleaser for the musical enthusiast – if you haven’t experienced the Melbourne International Jazz Festival yet, make sure you’re front and centre next year.

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