03 Babylonia SuiteBabylonia Suite
Ilios Steryannis; Sundar Viswanathan; Jessica Deutsch; Nawras Nader
Independent (iliosjazz.ca)

The names Babylonia Suite and Ilios Steryannis are incorporated into the circumference of a pictogram on the top right-hand corner of this CD cover. This otherwise rather unobtrusive icon of a tree with spreading roots and branches that seem to be encapsulated by both title and name is both intriguing and revealing. For in these roots and branches – fascinating in their ancient modes and modern interpretations – lies a thrilling musical ride. 

You are treated to a series of works that begin with the title song Babylonia itself. The tumbling Middle Eastern groove oscillates between a 6/4 and a 12/8 pulse and sets the tone for the rest of the disc. The first six songs make up the narrative suite of the title that spans the cultural topography of the ancient region which Steryannis’ maternal ancestors once called home. 

The drummer has, of course, called Canada home for many years, but like so many Canadians celebrates diversity as he knows best. His Greek-Hebrew culture unfolds as if in a parade of Middle- and Near-Eastern street musicians whose passionate ululating melodies, eloquent harmonies and infectious rhythms emerge through a modern vortex.  

While Steryannis has sought to celebrate the ancient origins of his maternal heritage this music is far from a sentimental journey written in odd metres. The brawny, polyrhythmic Blue Rumba, meditative Sun Song and vivid 400 North and Laplante also reveal a composer with a refined, multi-dimensional melodic voice.

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