By Norm Harris
Making a triumphant return to Flushing Town Hall with the Latin Jazz Coalition, which he founded in 1986, Bellerose’s own Greek jazz maestro Demetrios Kastaris led along his new Conjunto Kathari Band through two sets of inspiring, soulfully uplifting and spicy jazz compositions for the enjoyment of the capacity crowd.
Sitting in with the LJC were several special guests, including jazz trumpet master Yannis Economides, just in from Thessaloniki, Greece; and Steve Turre, a trombone virtuoso and regular in the Saturday Night Live Band. Turre and Kastaris both demonstrated not only their exquisite jazz chops on trombone in ensemble, but also, to the amazement and sheer delight of the crowd, in a featured duet on the conch shells.
The evening ran long as Theofilis Katechis, a 14-year-old musical prodigy from Queens and one of Kastaris’s discoveries, inspired the audience with his skills as a soloist on the bouzouki, a Greek folkloric instrument.
Completing the night in high fashion in the finale with the LJC, Conjunto Kathari, with its cadre of talented vocalists, provided several spiritual and joyous musical selections to welcome the holiday season. Kastaris introduced his new group as one that he spearheaded so that they might together carry their mission statement to the people. He said they hoped, with their musical message inspired by God, “to lift the spirits of the people who feel hopeless by performing in the streets, in the prisons, in psychiatric hospitals, also where there is gang violence and prostitution, and to give them some love and hope.”