Alturas at Smith's Alternative blends tango and jazz
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Alturas at Smith's Alternative blends tango and jazz

Alturas. Smith's Alternative, 76 Alinga Street, Civic, Saturday, May 21, 7pm. smithsalternative.com.

Contemporary jazz/tango ensemble Alturas had a few changes in 2015. Pianist Jane Andino was replaced by Daniel Rojas and a new member, accordionist Gary Daley, joined the group.

The members of Alturas - Gaye Thomas (left), Daniel Rojas, Gary Daley, Greg Gibson, Stan Valacos and Inge Courtney-Haentjes - have helped create the band's special sound and they deliver plenty of solos.

The members of Alturas - Gaye Thomas (left), Daniel Rojas, Gary Daley, Greg Gibson, Stan Valacos and Inge Courtney-Haentjes - have helped create the band's special sound and they deliver plenty of solos.

But most of the members remain the same – flautist Gaye Thomas, violinist and violist Inge Courtney-Haentjes, saxophonist and clarinettist Greg Gibson and double bass player and guitarist Stan Valacos. Several members of Alturas live in the Blue Mountains – which gives the band its name, as it is Spanish for "altitudes" – and the rest are from Sydney.

They will all be performing at Smith's Alternative on Saturday, May 21 at 7pm.

Thomas, who is also the artistic director of Alturas, says that while there is tango in some of the group's musical heritage, especially Rojas, and she has a passion for Argentinean tango master Astor Piazzolla, the group does not play traditional tango at all but their own blend of modern tango and latin/jazz infused music with plenty of solos.

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"There's a lot of jazz in the music. Four of the players are jazz players – Stan, Gary, Greg and David are all jazz guys."

And Thomas studied classical flute with Jane Rutter at Sydney Conservatorium, but also had an interest in modern musical genres such as rock and jazz. She formed Alturas with Jane Andino in 2009 after discovering tango.

"It touched my heart."

The duet grew over time and the membership changed but the devotion to music-making remained and Alturas have regularly performed around the eastern side of Australia and have made a couple of CDs.

Alturas are no strangers to Canberra, having performed at Vivid and Teatro Vivaldi, among other venues. They were going to perform at Smith's Alternative in its previous incarnation just before it closed last year, Thomas says, and are glad to be able to have the opportunity to play there in 2016.

Thomas says they are also working on "a big stage show" to be performed in Sydney's Zenith Theatre in September. Histoire du Tango is based on works by Piazzolla and will include a choir and electro-tango arrangements.

"It's a big spectacular."

They hope to tour it next year – including to Canberra.