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Ilios Steryannis: Bethany Project

Dan McClenaghan By

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Toronto-based drummer Ilios Steryannis calls the sounds on his Bethany Project "World Music From the Heart."  Thes sound is a musical stew stirred up from Afro-Cuban rhythms, the Mediterranean sounds, John Coltrane, and ebullient West African percussions (and more), spiced with danceable funk and bebop, and drawing influences from, by turns, Gabriel Garcia Marquez' One Hundred Years of Solitude, Macedonian sounds, and—on "The Ornado"—the whirlwind motions of the leader's four year old son.

That's a big world to draw from. The potential for a lack of a cohesive vision from the use of such a broad pallet could have drained off the artistic and thematic focus. But it didn't. With superb arrangements, consistently catchy tunes and the highest level of musicianship and ensemble virtuosity—the sum of the parts creating  uplifting atmospheric—Steryannis and his mid-sized groupings have created a  marvelously engaging world music/good time sound.

"Group of Seven opens the set with an Afro-Cuban groove called rumba guaguanco, an infectious 7/4 percolation,  congas, timbales and drums cooking along at a medium  heat behind bari and alto saxophones. "Keep the Change" celebrates the chord progression of Coltrane's "Giant Steps." "Mombasa Lisa" features sinewy interweavings of alto sax and guitar, African-style, and "Florina" nods to Sterryannis' father's hometown, Florina, Greece, sounding like Greek folk music meets hard driving rock, with guitar, alto sax and Hammond B3 burning bright inside fluid Eastern European rhythms.

The disc closes with "Soledad," inspired by the Gabriel Garcia Marquez masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude, a laid-back Afro-Cuban groove that suggests a  peaceful twilight in the mythical Macondo.

Track Listing: The Group of 7, Keep The Change, College Street Knowledge, Mombasa Lisa, Florina, The Ornado, ScoJoe, Alek's 11, Mangambe, To Infinity, Soledad.

Personnel: Sundar Viswanathan - Alto and Soprano Saxophones, Kenny Kirkwood - Baritone Saxophone, Eric St-Laurent - Guitar, Scott Neary - Guitar, Joel Visentin - Keyboards, Connor Walsh - Bass, Adam Hay - Congas, Larry Graves - Percussion, Ilios Steryannis - Drums.

Title: Bethany Project | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced


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