Monday, December 5, 2011

A Few Cuts Above…

Stelio Kalkounos, seasoned musician and steakhouse guru, serves up his own brand of prime cuts on solo debut.

Between years of songwriting, producing and performing around the Midwest, Stelio Kalkounos spent some time managing some of the area’s most well known restaurants. Gino’s East Pizza, Gibson’s Steakhouse, Papagus Greek Tavern and the Five O’clock Steakhouse are just a few establishments that utilized his management skill and style. Although fine food and wine are passions in his life, the guitar is his first love. Somehow his dedication to these aforementioned passions, shine through his music on his new solo debut.

His first cut, “Shoot Me Up”, is arrested in a 60’s psychedelic groove interwoven with some nice bouzouki riffing. This track shows Stelio has some vocal grit and plenty of compositional imagination, assisted by emerging underground rapper Dennis Maniatakis, a.k.a “Denace”.  This is the only vocal track on the disc, but where his voice subsides, guitar resides. The self-taught guitarist uses shimmering textures and intense virtuosity on tracks like, “Genesis”. The way Stelio balances melodic sensibility with his technical prowess is an indicator of his potential and professionalism. “Intermission 2”, is an interesting piece that beckons the rich, Greek musical traditions Stelio grew up surrounded by as a 1st generation Greek-American youth. His Yia Yia (grandma) introduced him to Greek music legends such as Stelio Kazantzidis when he was only a child.

From early on in his musical life, Kalkounos thought diversity was important. He chaired benefit concerts for Chicago’s branch of Habitat for Humanity. At these events, blues and rock groups performed alongside string quartets and experimental jazz bands. These events raised funds to purchase necessary materials (lumber, plumbing and fixtures) for homes on Chicago’s west side for several less privileged families. Kalkounos is no stranger to philanthropy. As director of Chicago Prime Steakhouse’s charitable foundation, he directed hundreds of thousands dollars to local causes, from local abused women and children’s shelters to the American Red Cross.  Kalkounos also helped design a kitchen and dining room for one of these shelters.  Stelio values his community’s musical and cultural diversity and its unique local talents.

Stelio’s diverse musical tastes are evident on this disc, yet some may consider his Achilles heel to be the almost schizophrenic genres of music represented.  A & R reps might not find this appealing, but true instrumental music fans and musicians should consider this EP a rare gem.

By: Daryll Gibson – Writer & Editor, Alternative Soundscapes