ALBUM REVIEWS & LIVE REVIEWS
RADIO BROADCASTS & INTERVIEWS
ALBUM REVIEWS & LIVE REVIEWS
- Come To Me has been selected by Mark Sullivan at All About Jazz Website as one the best albums of 2015!
- SEE MARK SULLIVAN'S SELECTIONS
ALBUM & LIVE REVIEWS
- Budd Kopman, All About Jazz (five starts review)
- Mark Sullivan, All About Jazz
- Peter Bacon, Jazz Breakfast
- Adrian Pallant, AP Reviews
- Greg Drygala, Jazz Picks
- Ian Maund, Sandy Brown Jazz
- John Prichard, Jazz-Rock.com website (five stars review)
- Rob Hudson, Modmove, Australia
- Adam Baruch, Jazzis Records
- Roger Farbey, All About Jazz
- Peter Madeley Live review, (the Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton)
- Ron Shepper, Textura Magazine
- Jez Rowden, The Progressive Aspect
- John Marley, Jazz in York
IN OTHER LANGUAGES
- Esteban Arizpe Castañeda, El Intruso, Argentina (Spanish)
- Jean-Pierre Lhoir, Music In Belgium (French)
- Fabio Ciminiera, Jazz Convention (Italian)
- Tomasz Furmanek Interview, JazzPress (Polish)
- Tomasz Furmnek, Jazz Forum (Polish)
- Marcin Pulawski, Album Launch review, Cadogan Hall, LJF (Polish)
- Tomasz Furmanek, Nowy Czas (Polish)
ASAF SIRKIS TRIO - SHEPHERD STORIES
Shepherd's Stories is selected as one of the best albums of 2013 at All About Jazz website by both John Kelman and Ian Patterson.
- Ian Patterson, All About Jazz
- John Kelman, All About Jazz
- David West, Jazz Journal
- Adrian Pallant, AP Reviews
- Abstract Logix (five star review)
- Adam Baruch, Jazzis Records
- Jazz Picks
- Ian Mann, The Jazz Mann
- Charley Dunlop, Bath Listomania
- John Stevenson, EJAZZ NEWS
- Mary James Review
- Walter Kolosky Review
- Mike Dolbar's Drummer's Website
- Rich Rainlore special feature
IN OTHER LANGUAGES:
- Jazz Podium Interview (Germany)
- Drums & Percussion (Germany)
- Jazz Press Magazine (Poland)
- Alondon Interview (London magazine in Hebrew)
- Leonid Askern, Jazz quad (Russian)
- Jazz Convention, Fabio Ciminiera
- Slagwerk Magazine (Netherland)
- Sergio Piccirilli review (Spanish)
- Turkish Jazz Magazine, Yaprak Melike Uyar Interview
- Liechtenstein Gig Review (Tangente)
ASAF SIRKIS TRIO - LETTING GO
Asaf Sirkis Trio - THE MONK
Some drummer's press:
- Drummer Magazine feature
- Drummer Magazine Interview
- Rhythm Magazine Feature
- Rhythm Magazine Interview
- Rhythm Magazine CD review
Cadence Magazine, USA, Oct. 2009
Reviewed by Bill Donaldson
The Jazz Times, USA, April 2009
Israeli-born drummer and London resident Asaf Sirkis unleashes with thunderous abandon on this hard-hitting fusion offering that harkens back to a time before the genre became codified, diluted and reduced to a critical joke. Guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos, a six-string shredder clearly influenced by Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin, flaunts some impressive chops on the Mahavishnu-flavored “Stoned Bird,” while special guest Gary Husband showcases his highly personalized approach to synthesizer on “Dream” and the suitelike title track. Sirkis also wields whirlwind chops on the inventive drum showcase “Without a Story.”
Reviewed by Bill Milkowski
MOJO, November 2008 **** (4 stars)
Israeli drummer leads prog-jazz power trio.
Known largely for his work with Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble, Sirkis has also led some superb albums in the last decade. The obvious reference point is the muscular drummer led fusion of Tony Williams’ late ‘60s/early ‘70s trio Lifetime, and like Williams, Sirkis is not only an inventive drummer but also a composer of rigour, wit and surprising delicacy. The extrovert opener Stoned Bird and the haunting title track set the tone. Sirkis’s neat firepower is showcased amid plangent guitar arpeggios from Tassos Spiliotopoulos, lyrical bass work from Yaron Stavi and berserk keyboard cameos from guest Gary Husband. These capable creative players produce a lot of music here, but there’s air and expressive space too, especially in the quietly exploratory Without A Story and the ruminative End of the Circle in which Sirkis sketches fascinatingly elaborate and subtle percussive commentary.
Reviewed by Chris Ingham
The monk is the Jazz CD of the week in the Evening Standard, September 19th, 2008!
This combination of London talent is a direct result of the musicians' grapevine. Asaf Sirkis, talented composer and left-handed drummer, is an admirer of Gary Husband, a reclusive piano genius whose brilliant work too seldom reaches the record racks. A reminder of his dashing postmodern style, as recently heard on tour with John McLaughlin, adds at least one star to Asaf's power-trio with bassist Yaron Stavi and Greek guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos. Their gothic rock touches aren't up my street, but the overall jazz feel most definitely is.
Reviewed by Jack Massarik
Jazz preview: Asaf Sirkis New Trio, on tour
The Guardian, Saturday November 1 2008 00.01 GMT
In his long and playful partnership with saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, a recent and more delicate one with piano virtuoso John Law, and in many other settings from improv to fusion, Israeli expatriate Asaf Sirkis keeps confirming that he's one of the British jazz scene's most creative drummers. Law says that the way Sirkis just touches a cymbal is an inspiration, long before he's played a beat. North African as well as Middle Eastern music played a big part in his early listening, and he was a bass guitarist as well as a drummer in his teens, so rock and fusion music from the Police to Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra went deep with him. This trio generates a compelling intensity, and the leader's percussion responses to their ideas are dazzling eruptions of drum mastery.
• The Rhythm Station, Rawtenstall, Tue 4; Bonington Theatre, Nottingham, Thu 6; Millennium Hall, Sheffield, Fri 7, Sat 8; Tylor John's House, Coventry, Sun 16, The White Swan, Stratford on Avon.
Previewed by John Fordham
Jazz UK, October 2008
A new group for drummer Asaf Sirkis, who has been raising the temperature of Gilad Atzmon’s bands for years and latterly imparting new sonorities to pianist John Law’s trio. Sirkis clearly has a fondness for 1970s heavy-electric fusion music, and there are definite echoes of John McLaughlin’s Inner Mounting Flame or Birds of Fire sound in the early tracks here. Keyboardist Gary Husband, a fan of the genre himself, compounds the effect on a few guest tracks, but between the power-chords and tumultuous percussion there are slowly unfolding passages of Bill Frisell-like contemplation for Tassos Spiliotopoulos’s guitar. A bit meandering at times, but Sirkis’s drumming is dazzling and Yaron Stavi’s electric bass is both tightly-grooving and improvisationally responsive.
Reviewed by John Fordham
Vortex Web site, December 2008
Although the personnel has changed from drummer/composer Asaf Sirkis's former trio, Inner Noise (completed by keyboardist Steve Lodder and guitarist Mike Outram), his current trio (electric bassist Yaron Stavi, guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos, augmented from time to time on this album by keyboard player Gary Husband and percussionist Adriano Adewale) occupies similar musical territory to that explored so intriguingly by the former band. Sirkis's compositions are floating, often ethereal affairs, relying for their considerable effect on the contrast between their apparent dreaminess and the restlessly tumbling, brisk drumming by which they are driven. Stavi – as anyone who's heard Gilad Atzmon's band in 'fusion' mode will already know – is a deft bassist on the electric instrument, his soloing lyrical but cogent, and Spiliotopoulos provides not only textural variety by alternating between spikily rasping and softly noodling guitar, but also proves adept at exploring Sirkis's hypnotically drifting themes. With Husband and Adewale sporadically thickening the sonic mix with characteristically tasteful contributions, and Sirkis's extraordinarily sensitive but dynamic drumming a delight throughout, this is a fine – and unusual and original – album.
Reviewed by Chris Parker
Preview: Jazzwise September 2008
New Trio launches The Monk
Drummer Asaf Sirkis, best known for his work with saxophonist Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble launches his own trio album The Monk on 15 September with a special launch gig in Charlie Wright’s club in Hoxton on 18 September. Sirkis, like Atzmon, an Israeli living in London, has put together the new group, a power trio of Tassos Spiliotopoulos (guitar) and Yaron Stavi (bass) with the intention of showing a new side to his musical personality, highlighting specially-penned material for the group. Following the launch the trio plans a mini tour in November including venues such as The Rhythm Station, Rawtenstall, The Bonington Theatre, Arnold, Sheffield Jazz Club, Taylor John’s House, Coventry and The White Swan, Stratford upon Avon.
John Fordham, The Guardian tour preview, Saturday November 1 2008
In his long and playful partnership with saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, a recent and more delicate one with piano virtuoso John Law, and in many other settings from improv to fusion, Israeli expatriate Asaf Sirkis keeps confirming that he's one of the British jazz scene's most creative drummers. Law says that the way Sirkis just touches a cymbal is an inspiration, long before he's played a beat. North African as well as Middle Eastern music played a big part in his early listening, and he was a bass guitarist as well as a drummer in his teens, so rock and fusion music from the Police to Weather Report and the Mahavishnu Orchestra went deep with him. This trio generates a compelling intensity, and the leader's percussion responses to their ideas are dazzling eruptions of drum mastery.
The Rhythm Station, Rawtenstall, Tue 4; Bonington Theatre, Nottingham, Thu 6; Millennium Hall, Sheffield, Fri7
All About Jazz review, September 2008
After exploring an organ/guitar/drums encounter of the most unusual kind with The Inner Noise on albums including We Are Falling (Konnex, 2005) and The Song Within (SAM, 2007), Israeli-born, British-resident drummer Asaf Sirkis turns, on the surface, to a more conventional line-up with The Monk. Still, Sirkis' writing, and a trio that eschews orthodoxy, keeps The Monk in line with the distinctive voice of Inner Noise.
"Stoned Bird" opens the disc with harmonic ambiguity, driven by Greek guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos' arpeggiated chords and Sirkis' muscular, tumultuous playing. But it's Israeli bassist Yaron Stavi who sets up the spare melody, leading into a guitar solo that's referential in tone and approach to guitar icon Alan Holdsworth, but with far greater economy. Gary Husband—a clear reference point for Sirkis—makes the first of four guest appearances on keyboards. With a reputation built largely around his drumming, in recent years Husband has placed greater emphasis on keyboards, whether it's exploring the solo piano possibilities of Holdsworth (with whom he still occasionally works) on The Things I See (Angel Air, 2004), layered, multi-track compositions on The Complete Diary of a Plastic Box (Angel Air, 2008) or touring with another guitar legend, John McLaughlin, and his fusion- centric 4th Dimension group. Here, his synth solo demonstrates the same kind of attention to tone as the late Joe Zawinul and an oblique melodicism all his own.
Husband's keyboards are also a defining texture on the title track, with Sirkis again fighting convention as Stavi plays the melodic lead over Spiliotopoulos' gentle voicings. Arpeggiated changes follow, but with an even darker mood than The Monk's opener. The vibe says fusion, but the attention to space and color says something else, as Husband's synth solo combines a blinding speed with visceral tension and release. Spiliotopoulos opts for a clean but slightly tart tone, winding his way through Sirkis' changes with ease.
Sirkis may be a powerhouse drummer but, as with Inner Noise, the writing is equally important. "The Bridge," is a solo piano miniature written by Husband, which segues into Sirkis' compelling rubato tone poem, "Without a Story," where Spiliotopoulos' abstruse theme sets up a drum solo which unfolds with nuanced inevitability, leading to a more jagged three-way improv between Sirkis, Spiliotopoulos and Stavi.
From this open-ended middle point The Monk returns to more definitive form, ranging from the rhythm-dense "Alone," with guest percussionist Adriano Adewale, to the pensive "End of the Circle," insistent 5/4 "Dream" and abstractly impressionistic "The Journey Home." Sirkis and his trio possess great power and unbridled energy but unleash it rarely, making it all the more effective when they do.
The Monk signals a directional shift for Sirkis while continuing to build on his strengths as player, composer and conceptualist. Inherently lighter in texture than the keyboard-driven Inner Noise, it adds greater freedom to the mix, straddling the fusion fence with an appealingly uncharacteristic avoidance of unnecessary chops and purposeless displays of technique.
Reviewed by John Kelman
Jazz-Rock website featured review, September 2008
With the zest and zeal of a thunder and lightning storm, Asaf Sirkis takes his new electric trio into blissful states of improvisational glory... and all amidst a multitude of subtle musical delights that can only be described as "pure joy." THE MONK is simply Asaf's best recording to date and his drumming is just phenomenal... every beat... every phrase... every single second!
For this album, Asaf has assembled a truly outstanding group of talented musicians that features Tassos Spiliotopoulos on guitar and Yaron Stavi on bass with the amazing Gary Husband adding keyboards to several tracks.
As a composer, Asaf has branched way out from his gothic jazz journeys with the "Inner Noise," yet still manages to push the jazz-rock envelope into very fresh territory. As any great monk learns from his Masters, Asaf has fused the multi-directional influences of Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette with the adventurous song writing styles of Allan Holdsworth and avant garde composer, Erik Satie.
The overall mix of tunes on the CD runs the entire spectrum from harmonically gentle to brash creativity. Lightning does indeed strike numerous times throughout the album, but it is never overpowering... there is a calm and confident, almost illuminating attitude that is quite refreshing in comparison to Asaf's previous work.
The guitar work of Tassos Spiliotopoulos is gorgeously sparse and minimalistic on the title track, "The Monk" and "The Journey Home", yet can jump into hard rockin jazz genius at the drop of a hat on tunes like "Without A Story" and the very tasty "Dream". Check out Tassos' site at MySpace.com
On the bass, Yaron Stavi, holds down heavy hanging notes on "End of the Circle" and gets super melodic on "Stoned Bird", "The Monk", and "The Journey Home." Like the patience of a saint, Yaron, delivers a solid foundation for the music to build and grow upon. Check out Yaron's site at MySpace.
Not to be missed is the highly spirited fifth track, "Alone", which features soloing from the entire band, ending with an especially tasty bit of drumming between Asaf and guest percussionist, Adriano Adewale.
All in all, THE MONK delivers beyond expectations. It is an album by an ingenious composer and drummer who carries the listener into new and exciting musical heights! It's definitely not for the meek. This CD has balls, yet it is also very quiet and thought provoking. It's bold music coming from a higher plane and from a drummers perspective, it is a major slice of heaven.
Thanks Asaf, you have learned well from your Masters and are definitely walking the path of an inspired Monk of Rhythm!
Highly recommended with 5 stars.
Reviewed by John Prichard
ejazz news review, September 2008
This recording marks the triumphant debut of the Asaf Sirkis Trio, enabling the Israeli-born London-resident drummer to step out of the shadow of compatriot saxophonist Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble. Joined by guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos and electric bassist Yaron Stavi, ace drummer Sirkis stretches out and unveils his influences: Guitarist Larry Coryell comes to mind in the roiling rhythms of “Stoned Bird”, while Allan Holdsworth’s imprimatur is firmly stamped in the mellow melodicism of “Without A Story”.
That said, Sirkis (who wrote all but one of the CD’s eight tunes) reveals himself as an intelligent and assuredly unconventional composer. Among The Monk’s highlights are the spooky textures of guest musician Gary Husband’s keyboards on “The Dream” and Spiliotopoulos’s delicate dynamics on “The Journey Home”.
Reviewed by John Stevenson
Another All About Jazz Review, October 2008
One thing that has perhaps been understated in some quarters when considering drummer Asaf Sirkis' recordings as a leader is just how lyrical and understated his music tends to be. The Inner Noise recordings, which aligned drums and guitar with church organ, drew almost as much attention for the unorthodox nature of the trio as they did for the music itself, which is as subtle as it is expansive. It is also quietly melodic and vaguely uneasy at the same time. On The Monk, an album of shades and contours, these same qualities are much to the fore.
The album opener, "Stoned Bird," revolves around simple, melodic guitar chords and Sirkis' animated drumming, which is always hugely impressive, yet in no way overbearing. There's plenty of space for guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos and guest keyboardist Gary Husband to solo before the song closes with a very lyrical, measured contribution from bassist Yaron Stavi. Both Spiliotopoulos and Husband play within themselves, but with an edge that lends the tune a slightly dark tone. Husband's playing, here, on the title track and "Dream," owes a debt to the late Austrian keyboard maestro, Joe Zawinul.
On "The Bridge," Husband takes to the piano, revealing an almost classical deftness of touch and a wonderful ear for melody. At just under two minutes it is a lovely miniature which acts as a kind of pause at about the half-way point on the album.
"Without a Story" starts with a moody guitar voicing, gradually giving way to a King Crimson-esque improvisation, an impression heightened by Spiliotopoulos' Fripp-like sustain, rumbling bass, and by Sirkis' cat-o'-nine-tails stick work. His rolls, alternately crashing and sighing cymbals—a near constant characteristic of his style—and use of triangles and bells, sound like drummer Bill Bruford and percussionist Jamie Muir of Crimson fame rolled into one. Sirkis' long-term employer, saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, has described Sirkis as the best drummer in the world, and without wishing to kick off a pointless debate, suffice it to say there are occasions, when listening to his playing, where it sounds like he must have a third hand.
On the nostalgic "Alone," Sirkis is indeed lent an additional hand by percussionist Adriano Adewale, whose unobtrusive touch on congas and shakers add to a song which highlights the talent of Spiliotopoulos and Stavi, who both take impressive, carefully weighted solos. There's an almost serene air to many of the tunes—"End of the Circle" and the somewhat blue and sweetly melancholic "The Journey Home" in particular. But there are also timely injections of adrenalin, as on the album highlight "Dream"—a deceptively simple yet powerful track where Spiliotopoulos lets go a little on guitar, encouraged by the bustling stick work of the leader.
Sirkis's compositions, like his creative, elegant drumming, are inviting and challenging. The contrasting textures and moods slide in and out of one another seamlessly. The result is a pleasingly deceptive and quite distinctive listening experience.
Reviewed by Ian Patterson
Abstract Logix web site review, Oct 2008
If there were a 21st century band that most represents the influences of the legendary fusion group Mahavishnu Orchestra – the Asaf Sirkis Trio would be it. Interestingly, you can hear all four of the very different Mahavishnu bands in the trio’s music. There are the grand off-kilter arpeggios of the original Mahavishnu. There are the long-form sensibilities of the second Mahavishnu as evidenced in the title cut. The roughness of the technologically-driven Mahavishnu quartet band that featured John McLaughlin, Narada Michael Walden, Stu Goldberg and Ralphe Armstrong can be heard in the opening cut “Stoned Bird.” Guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos even evokes McLaughlin’s ring-tone sound while Gary Husband captures some of the spirit of Goldberg’s synthesizer forays. The 1980’s comeback Mahavishnu band is even evoked in the playing of bassist Yaron Stavi, who sounds at times an awful lot like Mahavishnu’s Jonas Hellborg.
Music is a comparative business. So, it is always helpful to point out influences and similarities so the listener can determine if this is music that he or she wants to listen to. But it is also very important to state that the band itself sounds very different from the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Much of the music sounds nothing like them at all. For starters the band is less inclined to get involved in any riff fests. The music at times is more spatial and prone to dissonance. The trio is not afraid to slow the RPMs down from time to time and play straight-ahead. But the influences are still heard.
Drummer, composer and leader Sirkis is quite adept behind the drum kit. There is a little Tony Williams and Narada Michael Walden in his strokes. (Yes the comparisons are necessary.) Throughout the album he also is proven to be an inventive composer. Guitarist Spiliotopoulos can shred. But he also offers plenty of fantastic jazz mainstream chops. Bassist Stavi is given the opportunity to introduce several of the tunes. He develops some low-down themes that travel up from your heels to your shoulder blades. They are muscular excursions – but beautiful.
The cuts on the album are all quite satisfying. But you should pay extra attention to “Stoned Bird” and “The Dream.” Also of note is the generosity of the leader allowing for a beautiful solo piano piece from Goldberg entitled “The Bridge” which quite literally acts as a bridge between highly electric cuts.
The music on The Monk is 21st century fusion and progressive jazz presented in an absorbing and engaging way.
Reviewed by Abstract Logix
Drummer Magazine review, ****Four stars, October 2008
With the opening track reminiscent of the fusion tracks of Vinnie’s solo album and with Gary Husband as a special guest, this is modern fusion is at. Dynamic and ‘out there’ but at the same time not to far, the solos are musical as opposed to being the chops fest that this type of music sometimes attracts. The sine wave type pads now sound dated and it would have been great to hear more of the unusual sounds such as the Dulcimer on the track ‘Dream’.
Reviewed by James Hester
All About Jazz interview with Asaf by Ian Patterson
The Endless Realm - published: September 30, 2008
Since arriving in London from Israel at the end of the end of the '90s, Asaf Sirkis has earned a reputation as one of the world's premier drummers. His scintillating stick work has sparked saxophonist Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble since its inception, as well as coloring the projects of saxophonist Tim Garland in recent years.
Yet this sensitive, cerebral drummer, who has drawn favorable comparison to legends Tony Williams and Jack DeJohnette, is not easy to pigeonhole. His own projects, particularly The Inner Noise church-organ/guitar/drums trio, are as creative as they are perhaps unusual, and Mark Sirkis as an original creative force. As at home in the jazz idiom as he is in a traditional Middle Eastern one, Sirkis' new trio of guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos and bassist Yaron Stavi charters new territories on The Monk (SAM, 2008). Lyrical, subtle music, underpinned and shaped by Sirkis' searching drumming, it is an utterly distinctive listening experience.
All About Jazz: Who is The Monk?
Asaf Sirkis: For me, being a musician has always been a little bit like being a monk. It's something spiritual I think.
AAJ: Do you mean that music is like a calling to you?
AS: No, I don't think it's a calling. It's definitely something that I always wanted to do. From a very early age I realized that was what I am going to do. Music for me is a window onto another realm. It gives me legitimacy to be who I really am. When you are there, you feel at home, but at home not in a sense of a place or a place in time, in a sense of something much more familiar than that even.
AAJ: Tell us a little about the writing process for this album.
AS: I had tendonitis for a period of time two years ago and I stopped playing for a while. It was very difficult for me because my whole life was built around my occupation as a musician and my love for music. I couldn't play, but I could write and I wrote the music for The Monk and also The Song Within, (SAM, 2007) which is my favorite album with my other band, The Inner Noise.
When I write music I am trying to concentrate on not interfering with it. What I do basically is I improvise and record myself. Improvising, and not worrying about anything that needs to come out as a tune. If I have a great idea and need to develop it, well, I don't develop anything. I improvise and then edit. Of course 99 percent of my improvisation I don't use. So I'm not really a composer, I am an improviser and an editor of my improvisations. That's what I do.
AAJ: The music on The Monk is quite minimal. Was that your concept from the outset?
AS: Again, when I write music I do not have any concept or any idea. If anything, if I have an idea about writing music I would stop writing music. I've said this before, but to me music starts when ideas finish. I try to write music as if it is a blank page and not to come with any ideas. If you try to do it, there is someone who is trying to do it. [laughs] It's either there or not. That is why I improvise so much because basically I am waiting for that second, for that shift to happen, and when it happens the music comes out.
AAJ: There's a slightly dark, edgy feel to a lot of the music on The Monk which reminds me, particularly in the guitar chords, of guitarist John McLaughlin's playing in the first Mahavishnu Orchestra. Is that a fair comparison?
AS: Yeah, definitely the music I am playing is colored by that: John McLaughlin, (guitarist) Allan Holdsworth and some of the prog-rock bands. I was really fascinated by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, and Allan Holdsworth, the I.O.U album. (Restless Records, 1985) This music basically changed my life.
AAJ: Drummer/keyboardist Gary Husband guests on the album, and brings some lovely playing, particularly on "The Monk" and "Dream," playing which is quite Joe Zawinul-like. Could you tell us a little about your relationship with Gary Husband?
AS: Gary is a good friend. He's one of the greatest musicians around, and in music theory too. I've been listening to his drumming, his piano playing, his theory, for many years now and I have been influenced by his drumming. I met Gary in Israel when he played the Jazz on The Red Sea festival, which I played when I was living in Israel as well. I think it was '98 when he came down to the Eilat festival on the Red Sea with Allan Holdsworth, which was a really great thing for me after all those years of listening to Allan Holdsworth.
Believe it or not, I transcribed everything he played on four or five of Allan Holdsworth's albums and I gave him quite a large book when he arrived to Eilat. We had a long chat in the hotel we were both staying in. We're in touch. I play with him occasionally and we meet sometimes. It's been really exciting to get to know him as a person.
I think his contribution to the album is immense. He makes the album special. Of course the trio is a wonderful thing, but he adds another dimension to it. Although we haven't played together that much we connect in some kind of strange way. It was never an effort for me to play with him, although he's an immaculate musician. When you play with somebody at that level, usually you're in awe of the talent and the capability, but with Gary somehow it feels like home, again.
AAJ: The inclusion of the piano piece, "The Bridge," as lovely as it is, seems an odd inclusion in the context of the music of the album as a whole.
AS: Initially, I was planning Gary would play a piano introduction, just a short thing as an introduction to the piece "Dream," but he improvised in the studio and it was so beautiful I thought: "OK, I'm going to take this and make it as a separate piece." I also thought it would be great to have a sonic rest after the title track, which is quite long. I thought it would be really nice to have the piano playing after that.
AAJ: I'm interested about the photograph in the inner sleeve of the bridge in Heidelberg. Is there a story behind that photo?
AS: Definitely. When I designed the cover I was looking for an idea. I have a friend, an Israeli artist who lives in Holland, his name is Nissim Men. He's a good friend and he gave me a reproduction of one of his works. It's called "Anonymous." I was looking for an image on the Internet, and I lifted my head and there was the reproduction of one of his works [laughs]. I thought, ok, that's the one! It sparked something in my mind, and with the monk thing it's connected. There is something about being a monk, that spiritual search which is very anonymous. You stop being yourself, but in a sense you are your true self.
He also has another series of work, which is basically his impression of cities from around the world. It's like a photo-shop collage. It looks a little bit wrong when you look at it, and then when you look at it better you see so many details. There's a lot of mystery in that, and I really loved that image. It really connected to the idea of Gary Husband coming to play on the album. Somehow, and I named Gary's piece "The Bridge." Having Gary play on the album was very special and unique moment for me, and his improvised piece, that bridge, was a very important point on the album.
AAJ: The musicians on the album, bassist Yaron Stavi you have of course played with for a number of years in Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble, but tell us something about guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos. I have to say I love his name, he sounds like a baddie from a Tin Tin movie.
AS: [laughs] I know. Tassos Spiliotopoulos. Tassos is a really great musician. I met him through Mike Outram, the guitarist on the Inner Noise CDs
AAJ: A tremendous guitarist. Mike Outram has been a real find for me.
AS: Indeed, yes. I think he's one of the best guitarists anywhere. Tassos was studying with Mike, and Mike recommended I use Tassos whenever he couldn't do a gig. I met Tassos and we had a little play, a rehearsal before one of the Inner Noise gigs, and I said to myself: this is not just the best boy of Mike, he is a bit more than that. I had in mind to do something with him for a couple of years. And we finally did this trio and I'm very happy that he's a part of it.
I and Yaron are also members of Tassos's quartet. He's also an amazing composer. We did a CD for him, Wait for Dusk (Konnex, 2006). About Yaron, of course I've known him for a few years since we've been playing with Gilad. He's also from Israel, although I didn't play with Yaron while he was in Israel. I met him in Europe and started playing with him here. We've played a tremendous amount of gigs over the years with Gilad's band. We used to play an average of 150 gigs a year with Gilad's band, so there's a very strong bond there. Like Tassos, Yaron's an amazing musician.
AAJ: Does it please you that music journalists struggle to give a name to the music you make, particularly The Inner Noise project, or is it a source of annoyance?
AS: I'm not annoyed by it, neither am I happy. Of course it's nice to be unique or whatever you call it. Sound travels in me and when it hits the page it sounds in a certain way and that's what I have in my mind.
AAJ : Your music does sound refreshingly unique. Do you think this is down to the fact that you started writing your own material at a relatively early age?
AS: Well, no. I think it's hard to say why the music I write sounds the way it sounds, except for my influences and so on. I think it's because I never let anything interfere with my writing. As a drummer, I went to study with a drum tutor for many years and practiced and transcribed, and I still do.
I still practice and I still try to develop my playing, but when it comes to writing, it's a sacred thing. I don't try to touch it. I don't try to improve it, I don't try to learn more, and I don't try to write for anything. I write for nothing and music comes from nothing. It was always sacred for me, that element in music. I don't let any, how can I say, conceptual contamination enter. That sounds a bit much, maybe, but I've always been a bit extreme about that. That's why I think the music I wrote from a very early stage took its own road, and never came back. [laughs]
AAJ: Let me take you back to Israel. Who were the important Israeli jazz figures when you were starting out?
AS: I've been lucky to play with some of the leading musicians in Israel. One whom I played with for some years is Albert Beger. He's a great saxophone player. Also Harold Rubin, a very interesting figure. He's a clarinet player, originally from South Africa, and he's an all-round artist. He's an architect; he's a painter, a poet, a composer, a musician, whatever. I worked with him for quite a few years when I was in Israel. Both Albert [Beger] and Harold [Rubin] were very important figures for me because I started to play with both of them when I was very young. I think I was 22 when I started to play with Harold. We did some albums together. He's quite amazing. He's in his 70s now, and he's still very active. A very energetic person.
AAJ: Israel has produced a steady stream of talented jazz musicians in recent years who now play outside the country. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the jazz idiom doesn't seem to have penetrated the Palestinian musical culture to the same degree. Is there a simple explanation for this?
AS: It's hard to say. Being in touch with some Palestinian musicians, like oud player Adel Salameh, who I recorded with when I came across to London, and others I've come across and played with, have a very, very strong musical background of their own culture. There's a beautiful tradition of Arab music, and playing with Adel Salameh, I learnt so much about that tradition. It's funny, you know here in London I learned how little I knew about it in Israel.
AAJ : That's not entirely surprising.
AS: Yeah, in Israel there is a kind of segregation, such a strong element of separation that you really don't get to understand what it's all about. When I came to London, it was a neutral ground to study a little bit of that amazing culture, that amazing music. Coming to London was for me a real eye-opener in many ways. The first thing I encountered was that I met my Palestinian neighbor, and I realized that we are talking here about people, and that was really great.
The other thing that I realized was what identity is really all about, the extent to which people are immersed in the idea of being somebody, and what it does to them. The difficulty with identity, I realized, is that when you go too far, at a certain point you become blind. You stop to see what is going on around you. Basically, for me, identity is a dream. It's a collection of ghosts from past lives of other people. It doesn't even belong to you. To say I am Israeli, or I am a jazz drummer—it's not yours, it's somebody else's and we cling on to it and say: that's mine. It's me. That is me. The whole idea of identity was a great revelation to me here. It changed the way I think about things.
AAJ: There's a great video on YouTube of Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble playing, I think it's "Autumn in Baghdad," with the Palestinian oud player/singer Nizzah Al-Issan, which is really very beautiful. Do you have any plans for further collaborations with Arab musicians, such as Adel Salameh?
“'Play like it's your last gig; play like it's your last day on this earth.' I have always cherished that.”
AS: Not at the moment. If something like that comes along I would definitely do something with it. As far as my music is concerned, again, the music that comes out decides for me where I should put it. [laughs] If I go now and write a piece for oud and bandir, I'll play it with an oud and bandir. But if the music is for The Inner Noise or for the trio—and again, I don't write it for, that's just the way it comes out. So, no plans to collaborate, just to keep on writing music. I definitely feel that there is more to come from this new trio with Tassos and Yaron.
AAJ: You've described in previous interviews your three years of military service in Israel as a complete waste of time, but did it not inspire or provoke any reaction in you musically?
AS: Yes, it did. I think you've already mentioned it, that my music is a little bit dark. I think it might be one of the things that colored my activity as an artist. It had a tremendous effect on me. I can't ignore it really, even if I wanted to. All I wanted is to make music. In Israel there is a very strong social pressure on you to do a lot of very difficult things. It's quite extreme when you think about it, from the age of 18 to 21 you have to go and...
AAJ: Be a soldier.
AS: Exactly. The army is not a place where you learn about yourself or become mentally more mature or anything. I think that life presents us with enough challenges already. It's a killing machine. That's what an army is. Not only that, but it has a big effect on the social structure and the social behavior in Israel. And it's very difficult for someone who wants to make music, to make art, to deal with that. It was very difficult for me.
AAJ: Had you opted to be what they call a refusenik, if you had refused to do your military service, how might that have subsequently affected your career as a musician in Israel? Is there a lot of prejudice against people who refuse to do military service?
AS: There is and there isn't. Of course there is, but I know if I hadn't done my army service I would definitely be three years ahead in my musical career. A lot of musicians, or artists, a lot of people who don't want to do it, go to live somewhere else, or just don't do it. There are many ways not to do it, but I don't want to get into that. [laughs] Some of them are kosher, some of them are not. [laughs]
AAJ: I just wondered if perhaps refusing to serve later makes it difficult for musicians, or anybody, to get ahead professionally with whatever their career choice may be.
AS : It's not so much a problem in music, but if you're doing other jobs, like governmental jobs, then you have to do the army.
AAJ: Let's get back to music. The Inner Noise project actually started in Israel with Adi Goldstein on organ and Amir Perleman on guitar. How did that idea for a church organ-centered trio come about?
AS: When I was in Israel I made my first album, One Step Closer, (Self Published, 1995) I had a trio then. But after recording the album, I immediately started to write new music, very different music. It was a real shift. Waking up the day after the recording session, I had the very strange feeling that I was somebody else. It was really quite eerie actually, and I started to write different music.
At that time I was listening a lot to the music of Olivier Messiaen, mainly listening to the organ works. I was absolutely obsessed with it. I would come home after a gig and I wouldn't listen to any jazz, or anything else, just Messiaen's organ works. [laughs] I was completely obsessed with that music for a long time, for two or three years. And I started to hear church organ in my head. I had a keyboard and when I wrote. I wrote church music. And I thought, "How about adding drums to it?" So, I tried it one day with Adi Goldstein, who is a very talented musician from Israel. Then we added a guitar, for the melody to come out. That is how The Inner Noise was born.
That project has been a strange one for me because it was always very difficult to gig with it. In Israel, we didn't have an organ. but we played with a specially adapted keyboard setup. The Inner Noise was a total flop in Israel, by the way. [laughs] Nobody really wanted to listen to it. I remember one gig in Israel in some kind of art center, quite a nice place with a good audience. I closed my eyes and before the first piece was finished I opened my eyes and everybody had gone, except my girlfriend at the time. [laughs] They just couldn't take it.
We did some church gigs in London and elsewhere, but it was difficult for that project to gig, because the music is so specific, and you have to find a venue with good acoustics. But we are doing some concerts here and there.
AAJ: That project was commissioned by the Arts Department of Tel Aviv City Council, and it reminds me that you receive support today for your touring from the Arts Council in England and the charitable organization Jazz Services Ltd. Could you tell us something about Jazz Services Ltd. and just how significant this support is to you and other musicians?
AS: Jazz Services is a really wonderful organization. Basically, it offers tour support for musicians in the UK, touring around the UK. It's the first time I applied for funding and I got it and it was really quite helpful. So you kind of cover the petrol expenses, the hotels and top-up the fees so they are kind of reasonable. It's really great. It's amazing that there is something like that.
AAJ: On the subject of touring, I see from your gig list that from September through to the 19th December 2008 you are playing about fifty gigs in no fewer than twelve different lineups. Do you ever look up from your drum set and think, "Oh it's these guys tonight!"
AS : [laughs] No, I've got quite a nice setup with a few bands that I play with. Most of these bands, like Gilad Atzmon, or [guitarist] Nicolas Meier or [saxophonist] Tim Garland's band, are bands that I've played with for a long time. We've made a lot of CDs together and done a lot of tours together. I love it when things integrate, musically crystallize in a certain voice.
I've been working with some great people here for a long time and I'm really glad about this. I like to keep busy, I like to play all the time, and I like to go out there. I make my living playing gigs, which I always wanted to do. It's what I dreamed about when I lived in Israel. It is a dream come true for me.
AAJ: Of all these gigs, and I counted 50, only five of them are the trio with Yaron and Tassos to promote The Monk. Why so few gigs to promote this album?
AS: It's because of a few reasons. One is because of my history as a solo artist. A lot of promoters are still not so sure they want to book me because they are a little bit afraid of the music, a little bit afraid of what I'm doing. When I came out with the first Inner Noise record, people were in shock and didn't know what to think about it at all. They looked at this drummer who came from Israel that played with Gilad Atzmon, a kind of Middle Eastern, jazz-fusion thing, [laughs] and with Adel Salameh, traditional Arabic music. So they expected it to have at least a world flavor, but it had nothing of that. Instead they got gothic jazz. [laughs]
Many people in the industry here were put off by that. I'm quite sure of that. So it's still a little bit of a struggle to get gigs. The second reason is just that I am extremely busy playing a lot of gigs. It's hard to find time in my schedule to do gigs or time where I can hustle for them. You need to be around to do it.
AAJ: When you came to London in '99 you hooked up with Gilad Atzmon fairly soon after, and you've been playing with him ever since in the Orient House Ensemble. He's obviously a tremendous musician, and he's also a courageously outspoken advocate of Palestinians' rights to a state, or a shared state. Does being in his band make it problematic for you to return to Israel and to gig there?
AS: No. For me it's not a problem to go to Israel. I go to Israel every year to see my family. I don't have any problems. Most of the people don't have a problem with me. I never encountered any kind of hostility. If I were Gilad himself, maybe I would be careful. [laughs]
AAJ: I was really quite struck by Gilad Atzmon's notes on the inner sleeve of Refuge (ENJA, 2007), where he says that he admits, or he recognizes, that he had been mistaken to think that music could be a successful messenger of peace in uniting, or reuniting, feuding peoples. Rather it is not the messenger, but the message itself. Would you care to comment on that?
AS: That's something that I've been talking about with Gilad for many years now. I have a very different take on the subject of what is going on in the Middle East, in that I really don't think, and I have never thought that music can change anything for people that can't be changed. If the change is already happening within you, then the music will be only a little trigger for that change to be a more inspired change. I really think there is nothing I can do to harm or to help. It might sound a bit harsh, but I really do feel that way. I do agree that there is nothing we can do to help except to inspire and to be inspired.
AAJ: I feel that the statement by Gilad, about music being not the messenger but the message, is one of the most beautiful statements ever made about music.
AS: Yes, really. Gilad is a very profound person .in that sense.
AAJ: As well as Gilad, you play and have played with another of the really great figures in jazz today, saxophonist Tim Garland. Can you compare Gilad and Tim's approach to making music? What have you learned from playing with them?
AS: Tim is a very different figure, I think. He's a very different kind of musician, and kind of person. Extremely different I would say. I find Tim an extremely inspiring person and musician, and mainly as a composer. In fact, the first tune on the album, "Stoned Bird," was kind of inspired by him in a way, by his energy and by his writing.
Tim is a tremendous composer. What really strikes me a bout Tim is that he's a real dreamer. If he gets up in the morning and thinks that he hears in his head a piece of music for a jazz trio and the London Symphony orchestra, the day after it will happen. He just makes his dreams come true. He is always full of new ideas, new things which he eventually does. It's not like he just pokes away at it.
Gilad is a very different person. He's more into playing with a band than playing with a project. The band has existed for many years now. He's more of a player/personality/entertainer. If you haven't seen him live, he's an immaculate entertainer. Really very sensitive, and quite amazing. Yes, Gilad and Tim are very different. You know, Tim hasn't got any political aspiration of any kind, or maybe he has but it's not in the music.
AAJ:To my ears you use the cymbals a lot. They are a fairly constant voice in your music. Is there a particular drummer whose cymbal work has influenced you?
AS: Jack DeJohnette was somebody who influenced me a lot, and he's got quite an amazing cymbal thing going on. The thing that really made me play that way is: the drums have very little sustain. It's like, "tomp!" And I've always wanted longer notes to be heard. The cymbals give that longer note. That relates a lot to the organ, for me. The organ can also have a very long sustain, unlike the piano, the harp or even the guitar. With an organ, you can sustain as long as you want. The length of the note was one of the things I really liked about it.
AAJ: The great [drummer] Roy Haynes described drumming as like riding a horse, letting the reins out a little bit, pulling them in, keeping it tight but loose. How would you describe drumming?
AS: I think the role of the drummer is a very psychological role. A drummer can provide a sense of spirit, a positive, complimentary spirit in the music that can uplift the music to another level, the way [drummer] Elvin Jones plays. He just lifts the spirit. If you listen to Roy Haynes playing with [saxophonist] John Coltrane. There's a lot of cymbal going on there, all the time. The cymbal is like the spirit, it's like the sea, it's like water the way it surrounds you with a positive environment in a sense
AAJ: You've cited Olivier Messiaen as an influence, particularly on The Inner Noise project. I'm interested to know about your relationship to [pianist/bandleader] Sun Ra, whom you quote on the inner sleeve of We Are Falling.
AS: I've been into Sun Ra's music, and a lot into his writing as well. I was always intrigued by his writing and poems and so on. The thing I like about that quotation is that it speaks about non-identity, about what it really is. We live our life, we are "something" and we go from point A to B. We've got a future and we've got a past and so on. Yet in a sense, all we are doing is just falling into a bottomless pit. [laughs] It sounds a bit ...
AS: Maybe nihilistic, not so positive. But I do really feel that we do everything in our life to confirm something that doesn't actually exist. We are basically just falling and falling into a vast hole. [laughs]
AAJ: I'd better review my insurance policy. Have you seen the Sun Ra movie, the first one, from 30 years ago or so? There's this great scene where he walks into what looks like a Harlem youth center, where these young kids are shooting pool and hanging out, and he's dressed in his silver robe and hat and so on and says, "Greetings black youth of the planet earth. I am Sun Ra, ambassador from the intergalactic regions of the council of outer space." It's quite an entrance, and one teenager looks at him and responds, "Why are your shoes so big?" I thought that kind of summed up the incomprehension that surrounds him.
AS: [laughs] I've got the movie. The striking quotation is a scene when one of the kids asks him: "How do we know you're for real?" And he answers, "How do you know I'm for real? I'm not real. I am just like you." [laughs] He was quite a genius.
AAJ: Another video from YouTube, and it's from a concert with you, Yaron and Tassos in a Romanian restaurant in London...
AS: [laughs] Yeah, that's right.
AAJ:: You guys are playing your asses off to what looks like about ten people in the audience. This reminded me of a comment saxophonist Steve Marcus made to me a few years back at a very poorly attended gig. I felt sorry for the guy for the low turnout, and I asked him how it felt to play such a low-key gig. He said, "There's no such thing as a low-key gig." Can you relate to that comment at all?
AS: Sure. I am very passionate about music. Harold Rubin once said to me when I was very young: "Play like it's your last gig. Play like it's your last day on this earth." I have always cherished that. It is very important for me, and I am very excited about playing, wherever I'm playing, with whoever I'm playing.
Jazz.com track review
TRACK: Stoned Bird, RATING: 90/100
I talk to a lot of jazz critics. Some of them are a bit older. Well, they are my age. But a lot of them are disillusioned. They don't believe there is any good jazz being made anymore. They seem stuck in the past to me. They need to open their minds a bit. Well, that's not our problem. Let's move on.
The Asaf Sirkis Trio (abetted here by special guest keyboardist Gary Husband) is damned good, and play exciting music that falls somewhere between the rungs of progressive jazz and fusion. The band is heavy on distinctive arpeggios, spatial anomalies and interesting melodies. I wouldn't call this a jam band because its product is jazzier. But that spirit of following a groove does seem to live in the music.
"Stoned Bird" begins with a circular arpeggio punctuated by some well-placed strikes from drummer and leader Sirkis. The tune settles down to become a reflective soundscape. Bassist Yaron Stavi plays a pointed solo. Guitarist Spiliotopoulis (promise me, Tassos, you will shorten your surname when you hit it big!) adds some cutting blues lines as Sirkis kicks ass behind him. Spiliotopoulis then goes insane playing through a ring-modulator. This is a very ugly sound. But when used right, it can be quite dramatic. The song fades away ready to be listened to again with a touch of the replay button.
Reviewed by Walter Kolosky
Jazzwise review/interview (with Andy Robson)
Hot foot from his inspirational times with Larry Coryell's power trio, Sirkis has created his own largely guitar driven threesome with long time compatriot Stavi from the Orient House ensemble (but here on electric bass)and the relative newcomer Spiliotopoulos. The guitar man was a student of Mike Outram's at Trinity and Outram of course played guitar in Sirkis' extraordinary inner noise outfit. The trio eschews the deep Messiaen influences (and the church organ!) that were signature sounds of Inner Noise and is in many respects less ambitious in scope. On the other hand the trio is tighter, more sure- footed in its aims, more chamber-like in mood, and less prone to prolix moments of Inner Noise.
Spiliotopoulos in particular plays with lyrical, tender touch, avoiding effects or fleet-fingered showboating. Indeed he's often content with simple but moving arpeggios, resides contentedly within mid register and privileges taste and feeling over technical razzmatazz. And more to the point it works, in a late John Abercrombie kind of a way. Stavi likewise couldn't be further from Jeff Berlin, but between the three of them they create a rain forest rich sound world, teasing, giving, warm-hearted and generous. Husband's keyboards are especially welcome. Not surprisingly it can all come over as exceedingly Holdsworthian (notably 'Dream'), but its cheering how far Sirkis the writer can bear witness to his influences without slavishly copying them. Sirkis continues to be not only an outstanding drum practitioner, but his writing, enigmatic and mysterious, is equally fascinating in its elusive melancholy.
Jazzwise talks to Asaf Sirkis about his album
Why The Monk?
I find a lot of similarity between the way a monk lives and the Jazz musician. Not that I'm a monk! But for me monk symbolizes great devotion to something that's not material.
And the music was born from personal hardship?
Yes, this is very personal to me, this music. Some two years ago I had to stop playing because of tendonitis problem in my shoulder . It was the first time since being 12 I was separated from my drums. I had real concerns that I wouldn't be able play again. So that's when I composed the music for The Monk and also The Song Within for the Inner Noise.
But The Monk is very different album from The Song Within, as indeed the trio is different from The Inner Noise?
Sonically they are very different - The trio obviously doesn't have a church organ, but much of the music of not dissimilar. I try not to think of a 'concept ' ... it is very sacred for me: I've never studied harmony or the piano - music comes from 'nowhere', not 'somewhere'. When it needs to come out it does...it is a spiritual experience for me.
And Larry Coryell has influenced the trio?
Playing with Larry really inspired me to have this trio. It brought me back so much of the fusion and rock music I loved while growing up in Israel. It was Gary Husband who recommended me when he couldn't make the gig with Larry. I've followed his (Husband's) career since Allan Holdsworth days, listening to him in the heat of Israel. When you admire someone like that for so long, and now I can bring him into my zone, that's really amazing.
You're very at home with the brit scene now?
It's got so exciting here over the last three years. There's still no money and less places to play: it's like Israel was. There's no support so you have to have a strong vision to make it. But the people coming through that I've been lucky enough to play with, Gwilym Simcock, Kit Downes, are great, as well as guys like Gilad (Atzmon) and Tim (Garland). You go for a jam at Charlie Wright's these days and you get your arse. I leave there thinking I'd better go home and practice.
Jazz.com track of the day review
TRACK: DREAM, RATING: 90/100
A hypnotic note cycle introduces the number. You enter into a trance. Special guest keyboardist Gary Husband's synthesizer impersonates a flute being played under water. He is the pied piper of the technological age. An angular electric guitar solo follows. I'd mention the guitar player's name, but I only have a few minutes and there are too many letters to type. You can check out his name in the personnel credits above. At any rate, he prepares you for Asaf Sirkis's drum solo. I would say Sirkis is influenced by Tony Williams. His impressive turn is interrupted by a reappearance the opening note cycle. It is a reassuring if slightly uncomfortable feeling, as if we are going down a drain. The Asaf Sirkis Trio plays some rather enigmatic music. They should be watched very closely.
Reviewed by Walter Kolosky
DRUMMER Magazine interview, September 2008 (Issue 130)
The Final Word BBC award-winner Asaf Sirkis blends Middle-Eastern influences into his jazz playing. Oh, and probably a bit ofJackie Mason too…
the debut album by my new group The Asaf Sirkis Trio. It’s an electric bass-electric guitar-drums trio and we play a mixture of hard rock-ish improvisations and jazzy ballads. It’s been really exciting working with that band. My other band, The Inner Noise, is a rather unusual combination of instruments: church organ, guitar and drums – kind of like an organ trio but with a twist. I love that band. We make a big sound and it’s only three of us. We have three CDs out in all.
Have you any tours coming up in the UK?
I’m going to be touring with my new trio in the UK in November for the release of our new CD, and next spring in the UK and Europe. It’s the first time I’ve really started to get more gigs with my own project, so I’m looking forward for that.
What are you listening to at the moment?
South Indian music. I’m seriously into Thavil drumming and the Nathaswaram. Plus Yemenite Music, as I grew up in Israel in a Yemenite area.
Most inspiring album in your collection?
Atavachron by Allan Holdsworth. I got to know that album when I was 17 and it really blew my mind. I transcribed every note of the drums on that album,
immaculately played by Gary Husband, Tony Williams and Chad Wackerman. It’s a very significant album for me. It influenced my playing, my writing and my development as musician.
Favourite drum groove?
I love Bernard Purdie grooves. Anything he plays is killer!
Song do you most wish you’d played on?
‘Looking Glass’ by Allan Holdsworth. It’s such a drummer’s feature tune!
Favourite current drummer?
Jack Dejohnette, as he’s a real natural and spiritual musician. Gary Husband because Ilike his focus and spirit.
Main inspiration to take up drumming?
When I was around 11, I started to look for a way to express myself. I wasn’t very good at school and I wasn’t great with girls either, so that probably affected things. At first I wanted to play electric bass, but there were no bass teachers where I grew up in a small town in Israel. So the next best thing was the drums. I loved the physical side of it and started taking lessons – and soon fell in love withit. Ringo Starr was my first inspiration.
What have been your career highlights?
Playing with Larry Coryell’s trio – I started playing with Larry a few years ago. When bassist Jeff Berlin joined us for a tour in Germany this year, it was a real treat as I grew up on Larry and Jeff’s playing. Winning the BBC jazz award a few years back with Gilad Atzmon’s band was also a unique experience. We only played there for seven minutes, but they were seven minutes to remember…
What is your current set-up?
I change my set-up every now and again, though at the moment I’m trying to go for one that allows natural movement avoiding imbalanced sitting and placing the ride cymbal in a comfortable place. I like to think of the drums as being a melodic instrument. I tune them so they produce a pitched note rather then a mass of sound. I’ve recently been using a mix of some old and new Gretsch drums: 20 x 16” bass drum; 12 x 8” tom; 15 x 14” floor tom; 18 x 16” floor tom; 14 x
5.5” wood snare; and a Rogers 14 x 6.5” metal snare on the side, near the hi-hats. I tune it really low and use it more like a
tom. It sounds almost like a 13” tom. For cymbals I use Istanbul Agop: 20” Turk Ride; 24” Ride; 17” Crash; 15” hi-hats; and
some really nice bells, 6” and 8”.
What is the band’s current project?
I’m just about to release The Monk The Asaf Sirkis Trio. It’s an electricbass-electric guitar-drums trio andwe play a mixture of hard rock-ishimprovisations and jazzy ballads. It’s been really exciting working with thatband. My other band, The Inner Noise,is a rather unusual combination of instruments: church organ, guitar anddrums – kind of like an organ trio butwith a twist. I love that band. We makea big sound and it’s only three of us. We have three CDs out in all.
Favourite tour bus DVD?
The Ultimate Jew by Jackie Mason and some Israeli comedians you probably don’t know.
Which sticks do you use and why?
I use Vic Firth SD10 swingers for the quiet stuff. I get the best sound out of my cymbals with them. I’ll use SD9 drivers
for when I have to go for it – I get a bigger sound and they feel really good.
Do you have a hole in the front head of your bass drum?
Yes, first time since a long time. My new Gretsch bass drum is a 20 x 16” and it’ll be too loud without a hole. I use very little muffling on the bass drum. I actually bought one of these ‘cut it yourself’ hole kits. It was very expensive and I couldn’t help getting a bit philosophical about the idea of buying a hole. Is nothingness a commodity?
Who would you most like to play with?
Allan Holdsworth. That’d be a dream come true.
CD or vinyl?
iPod or CD?
CD. I’ll go for iPod soon.
Curry or kebab?
Kebab, Turkish-style. Or Greek souvlaki, please.
Best thing about touring?
Music, music, music.
Worst thing about touring?
Asaf Sirkis & the Inner Noise - The Song Within
The Song Within is one of the best albums of the year at All About Jazz!
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Jewish Standard NY, USA
Steve Smith Blog (NY Times reviewer)
BC Music Review
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Chris Parker Review (Vortex website)
Jazz-Rock website (John Prichard)
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Jazz Review web-site
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Pittsburgh Tribune (Bob Larlovits)
Asaf Sirkis & the Inner Noise - We Are Falling
City Life Magazine, October 2005
Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise have real presence, albeit a malevolent one. Sirkis is an Israeli-born drummer with enough muscle to power a thunderstorm, whilst Mike Outram, the guitarist with the Inner Noise, is an invigorating player. The dominant voice on We Are Falling (Konnex), however, is Steve Lodder's sombre church-like organ. The drama comes in the contrast between sepulchral chill (Lodder) and the forces of light (Outram), as Sirkis splinters the rhythm into jagged counter-patterns.
Musician Magazine, September 2005
Drummer Asaf Sirkis composes and arranges all the tracks on this dreamy album. It is an experimental piece for a niche market, flirting with atonality and nearly-but-not-quite melodies that are skewed by unexpected twists and turns. All this to a backdrop of drums and nervous, skittering synths together with more challenging, unidentified sounds. Most intriguing.
Jazzwise, June 2005, three stars.
From its opening, spacey chords drifting over Sirkis' shimmering cymbal work, this is a mystically mysterious collection of musics with a range of well signposted influences, Messaien, Sun Ra, ahem, Keith Emerson, yet they've all been galvanised into something strangely strange yet oddly and most enjoyably accessible.Sirkis' vividly articulate drums drive on all the pieces, but this is very much a band album - Lodder in particular, while creating a church organ effect (yet spookily skewing into something other) revels in the space, but perhaps under the influence of Sirkis' ferociously earnest compositions, he refrains from the quirky japes that can be irksome in his playing. Outram likewise is all discipline while exploring the nooks and crannies of Sirkis' dark materials: he summons the spirit of early Mccloughlin, notably on 'Life Itself' and the acoustic intro to 'Spirit', although this soon morphs into some bastard mutant The Nice-like rock climax where you can almost see Lodder leering from his key-board like some post-modern Phantom Of The Opera.Of course, if the likes of Holdsworth floating worlds are not your cup of Tetley and Messiaen sounds to you like a three-years-old playing the melodica with a lolly stick, you may find We Are falling otiose rock opera of the dreariest and you may wish to avoid this shadowy part of the cosmos. Your loss, mind.
Andy Robson, Jazzwise, June 2005
Time Out Review, 'Short Cuts' section, june 2005
Powerhouse Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis is best known for his work with Gilad Atzmon, but his trio charts a completely different path. While Atzmon is all post-Coltrane and Middle-Eastern bluster, Sirkis draws on Messiaen, Sun Ra and Allan Holdsworth to create an intense, spacey internalised take on the legacy of Tony Williams' seminal power trio, Lifetime. With Steve Lodder on organ and guitarist Mike Outram, they create powerful, dark soundwashes and charning prog-jazz grooves that take the listener on a journey to outer and inner space.
Kerstan Mackness, Time-Out cd review ('Short cuts'), June 2005
Jazz Views Review, Issue 038 - July 2005
This is the second outing on disc for Asaf Sirkis trio The Inner Noise, although this time around dispensing with the massive church organ in favour of Lodder's set up of keyboards. The practicality of the number of available venues with the a suitable organ may have had a hand in making this decision, although this does also have an impact how the trio have changed (albeit it in a subtle way) their approach to the music. Gone is the overall impact of the impressive church organ that dominated the first album to be replaced with more of an even group dynamic. This in turn has allowed Sirkis to take a different view of how to compose for the band, and develop his not inconsiderable writing skills further.
As the title would suggest, We Are Falling has an other worldy-ness theme to it, from the pictures of asteroids Ida and Dactyl on the CD cover, and also in titles such as 'Galactic Citizen' and 'Another Being'; but make no mistake, the music on this hugely enjoyable able is far from an essay in spacey chords and electronic noodling that others have tried to pass off under such an all embracing concept. The compositions on the album show a wide variety of timbral variation and demonstrate the individual talents of all concerned in a way that firmly places the music above all else, that manifest itself in a true group performance.
Although the church organ is not in use on this outing, Steve Lodder's keyboard set-up utilises a bass pedal similar to that used on the large instrument that allowed the penetrating bass lines that powered along the first album to such effect, and he uses this to create the recurring bass riff throughout 'Life Itself', and is also able to generate the full organ sound for the sweeping title track, 'We Are Falling'. It is Lodder's intuitive and creative use of the electronic keyboards (that he has demontrated in other contexts such as with his work with saxophonist, Andy Sheppard) that give the band a new found release and sonic palette to work with.
The albums with a gentle and lyrical piece with 'Another Being' with Outram's melodic and simply stated guitar is fleshed out by Lodder's keyboards and an increasingly complex commentary from the leader's drums. This is controlled and passionate music that gets the CD off to a fine start that is maintained throughout. The bass pedals that are added to the keyboard set up are then used to maximum effect in 'Life Itself', which is again powered along by some creative stick work from Sirkis,and Mike Outram's guitar gets a thorough outing utilising a more rock influenced sound that sits comfortably with Asaf's probing accompaniment.
Steve Lodder's keyboards again come into their own on the broad sweeping sound that is 'We Are Falling', with the church organ sound from the first album recreated; and Steve also gets to demontrate his remarkable touch at the piano on the 'Ida & Dactyl (& Ghost Of Dactyl)' that gives ample notice of the scope of the trio and sounds that are open to further investigation both live and on future albums with a seamless blend of electronic and acoustic instruments. This point is also reaffirmed on 'Spirit' that has some fine acoustic guitar from Outram.
All in all another fine album from Asaf Sirkis that places him firmly amongst the UK's hottest properties not just just as one of the musical drummers, but also a composer and bandleader of some. It is therefore with eager anticipation, that I look forward to continue following the career of this most enterprising and imaginative of musicians.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views web-site, July 2005
Progressive Ears on-line magazine, Epilepticgibbon, 9/7/2005
The lines between prog and jazz rock fusion are rather blurred. There are lots of acts who straddle that line, but none quite so finely as Asaf Sirkis, or at least that seems to be the case when he's working alongside his Inner Noise project. Sirkis is pretty well known and well respected in jazz circles (which may explain why I'd never heard of him before this album) as the drummer for Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble. He's known as something of a powerhouse on the drums, something which he regularly displays on this album, but he's also a composer and he shows off his compositions on this, his second album with his Inner Noise trio (which includes keyboardist Steve Lodder and guitarist Mike Outram).
The album's title, the cover art work (which features an asteroid), a quote from Sun Ra, and the titles of some of the tracks might lead you to think that the music is going to be spaced-out jazz but no, this is jazz rock fusion with a strong prog rock feel to it, with influences that could be King Crimson, Keith Emerson, National Health, Brand X and Allan Holdsworth… and with influences like that you won't hear me complaining.
In another review, of the album by Polish group Robotobibok, I defined a new sub-genre, exorcist jazz; well, this may not quite be exorcist jazz but it comes close – apocalyptic prog jazz might be a more appropriate term, particularly with those eerie church organ style keyboards (apparently on the first Inner Noise album a church organ was actually used but here Lodder utilises a midi keyboard that provides a similar effect). This is dark instrumental music, but it doesn't consist entirely of relentless soloing and pointless noodling… far from it in fact, the compositions and the musicianship are tight, lyrical and energetic.
The three musicians work very well together and this means there's real cohesion and a strongly organic element to the sound of the album. But there are solos and when they do happen they show off the invention of the writing and the skill of the performers. These solos, and the musicianship in general, are highly proficient, sometimes even showy, but never at the expense of the pieces of music. Outram particularly impresses on guitar, though there's no doubt that Sirkis and Lodder are ably supporting him throughout, acting as the glue that holds everything together.
Track 1, “Another Being”, reminds me of King Crimson… not that it sounds like any particular Crimson track but the vaguely Fripp-like guitar, the gothic keyboards and the organic percussion give it that feel.
I mentioned Robotobibok earlier, well track 2, “Life Itself”, comes closest to sounding like them. I'd be interested to know if the two bands have heard each other because although their general sounds are quite far apart, on this track they're remarkably similar. I think it's that fat analogue keyboard sound, combined with the busy, dark, frenzied and complex nature of this track. I could do with a bit of a lie down after this track, to be honest, but I mean that in a good way!
Track 3, “Galactic Citizen (part 1)”, is a fairly short (nearly three minute long) keyboardy introduction to the second part and strikes me as the only 'filler' track on an album that is otherwise timed perfectly. But the second part of “Galactic Citizen”, picking up where the first part takes off, develops in much more interesting directions.
The title track is probably my absolute favourite on the album, which is perhaps not surprising given that it's probably the most obviously prog rock-like, and really wouldn't sound out of place on a National Health album. Outram's guitar is particularly prominent and he gives an amazing solo which leads me to take my air guitar out of the cupboard every time I hear it, but there's also an equally impressive keyboard solo, and the whole piece just drips with apocalyptic energy and quality.
Track 6, “The Bottomless Pit Surrounding You”, is another short, atmospheric bridging piece but it's much less of a filler than “Galactic Citizen (part 1)” seemed to be.
Track 7, “Spirit”, starts with fine acoustic, almost classical guitar from Outram that fans of Steve Hackett would be comfortable with, but it soon explodes into an Emerson, Lake and Palmer style freak out, which you've just gotta love (well, if you like that sort of thing and I certainly do!).
And the album ends with the track “Ida & Dactyl (& ghost of dactyl)”, which I believe are the names of asteroids. This is a nice way to end the album, a dreamy piano-filled piece that is beautiful and soothing, particularly after the impact of the previous track. Oh, yeah, there's a tiny bit of synthesizer at the end of the album, a sort of noodling extra track, which doesn't have a title and serves no real purpose, but it's not unpleasant either.
So is it jazz, jazz rock fusion, prog rock, or apocalyptic prog jazz? Well, it's all four and none of them really. The labels don't matter, except as a general point of guidance. Crucially, this is an excellently performed and entertainingly inventive 21st Century spin on some old genres, and if you have even the slightest enthusiasm for any of those genres then you're gonna love this. I'm gonna get my air guitar out and listen to We Are Falling again…
Best tracks: “Another Being”, “Galactic Citizen (part 2)”, “We Are Falling”, “Spirit”, “Ida & Dactyl (& ghost of dactyl)”.
Ian Fairhorn, Progressive Ears, 7/9/2005
The Handstand, November 2005
The composer and drummer Asaf Sirkis was born in Israel in 1969. and it was there that he established his solo career. He recorded his first solo album "One Step Closer" in 1995, playing his own compositions with the "Asaf Sirkis Trio". He later developed his "Inner-Noise" project in Israel, 1997-98, but revived it after he had relocated to Britain in 1999.
The first "Inner Noise" album was recorded using a real church organ at St. Michael's church Highgate in March 2003 and was received as something fairly innovative and unusual. Sirkis, who cites Olivier Messiaen's organ music as a major influence, composed music that was not that easy to categorise into a general jazz context. His latest album "We are Falling" follows on and continues in a similar vein, also using the same line up of musicians: Asaf Sirkis on drums, Steve Lodder on keyboards and Mike Outram on guitar.
An important difference is that Lodder uses a special keyboard, fitted with base pedals similar to those of a church organ, which makes it easier to tour and play as a group. The sustaining power of the organ within the context of jazz, creates a sound that is very unique. The project distances itself from having a purely "jazz" identity and the classical music and rock influences are apparent.
Sirkis is quoted by Nick Lea of Jazzviews as saying: "the essence of music or non-identity in it is most interesting for me. Not the language or the style.What I'd like to point out through music is utterly simple - I am a human being and it is only when identity stops can music begin (Jazzviews, July 2005).
When I picked up "We are Falling" for first time, I was taken with an image of asteroids printed on the front cover with an accompanying quote by Sun Ra: "This music is about another to-morrow, another kind of language .speaking things of blackness about the void, the endless void, the bottomless pit surrounding you." My first impression was reinforced by initial feelings about the music. The opening track "Another Being" reminded me of Bach's prelude in F minor, which is used at the beginning of the classic science film "Solaris". The film, created by a Russian film director Tarkovsky, is often compared to Stanley Kubrick's "2001 AD," but it is a more intense psychological journey, presenting an inward looking analysis of human nature.
The final track "Ida & Dactyl" reminded me of the end of the film, where we are presented with an image of an island in the ocean of Solaris, which seems like an endless void beyond worldly reality. Sirkis' compositions made me think of Tarkovsky's frequent references to moving water. The music, like moving water, embodies the principle of change, but also affirms the idea of a repeating cycle.
In "Another Being" there are recurring motifs, evocative of ostinato, which provide unifying repetition. These are supported by the very low, harmonic, tones, supplied by the bass pedal, which project the music forward into space. This procedure is reminiscent of techniques used by minimalist composers like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams, who experimented with tape loops and recurring fragments of melody. However, Sirkis' music is more rhythmically flexible, which gives a more open-ended impression of continuous motion. The influence of Messiaen's music is strong, and I noticed a parallel in Sirkis' music to "Quartet for the End of Time," which, coincidently, I was listening to at that time. Messiaen wrote the following forward to his work: "Modes, which produce a kind of tonal ubiquity in harmonic and melodic terms, bring the listener closer to eternity in space, to infinity. Special rhythms without any specific time signature play a powerful role in taking the listener away from the temporal sphere" This distance between the temporal and the spatial is apparent in "Galactic Citizen." The first of the two pieces combines repeating motives with melodically and rhythmically freer musical lines. This is like Messiaen's "Liturgy of Crystal, which is a combination of a harmonic modal procedure and flexible additive and non-retrogradable rhythms. I felt a similarity between the sustaining bass tones of "Galactic Citizen" and Messiaen's harmonic chordal succession - a backdrop for a modal melodic cycle that exists independently. These two elements have a point of reference at which they converge, but it is not musically punctuated in a traditional sense. It gives an effect of forever pulling the music into infinity, because once we have reached the end of a cycle we begin again on the same journey. At the end of "We are Falling," we have reached the end of a cycle with Ida & Dactyl. This piece reminds me of Messiaen's "In praise of the immortality of Jesus," which elaborates a lyrical violin line over a series of cyclic chords.
In Ida & Dactyl, Mike Outram's expressive guitar playing is accompanied by long, deep bass tones. This is intensified in the second part of the track into some of the best jazz music on the album. Steve Lodder elaborates with an excellent piano solo, played in tandem with the drums, which builds up a fabulous climax. After a long silence, the music comes back with a meandering melodic line that is briefly cut short on one final long tone that just hangs, indicating the end, but without the musical completion that we are normally used to.
The pace is stepped up on the faster tracks on the album, such as "Life Itself," which is a far more rock oriented sound. Similarly, "We are falling" also provides an opportunity for an even more intense relentless style of drumming and virtuoso solo guitar playing. This reminds me of the playing of Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, and more recently, the work of Nguyên Lê. These faster tracks provide opportunities for virtuosity of playing and jazz solos that intersperse the slower material giving a kinetic overall sense of musical form. They tend to draw the music on to a level that is much more formidable and energetic.
The level of musicianship on the album is very high as the group play in a very cohesive and complimentary manner. Sirkis's drumming varies from an expressive subtlety on the slow tracks, which is maximised by timbral use of cymbals, to the tight relentless virtuosity of the faster pieces. I think that "We are Falling" is of real attraction to listeners who are interested in new sounds and the fusion of musical styles. It is a definite magnet for an audience wanting to expand their musical experience beyond the limitations of style, and it is an album that suits the individuality of modern musical taste.
Rory Braddell, October 2005
Guardian review, John Fordham
... ''an attractive luxuriousness of texture, some sensational drumming and inventive soloing... Great playing from three contemporary performers at the upper-edge of the game''...
John Fordham, The Guardian Friday CD Review, June 2005
BBC Magazine Review
... ''fuelled fusion fun of the best kind, delivered without pretension and bursting with energy''.
Peter Marsh, BBC Magazine, June 2005
O's Place Jazz Newsletter
O's Notes: We Are Falling is a rather different take, purposely so. Drummer Asaf Sirkis seeks to let the music speak, entering a space that has yet to be explored. The music has more structure than free jazz yet is similarly eclectic. Sirkis also plays keyboards and Steve Ladder (keyboards) and Mike Outram (g) make up his band, Inner Noise. The music is kind of eerie and spacey - the songs are appropriately titled - “Another Being”, “Galactic Citizen” and “The Bottomless Pit Surrounding You” are examples. This will appeal to selected audiences.
Oscar Groomes, November 2005
Andy Robson interviews Asaf Sirkis (Jazzwise, June 2005) - Taking Off
The fall guy
Best known as a member of Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble, drummer Asaf Sirkis is breaking out as a leader with a second solo outing this month. Interview: Andy Robson
“Not a lot of jazz clubs have a church organ,” says Asaf Sirkis about the change of direction on his new trio album We Are Falling. “I really liked the music on our first album, Inner Noise [also the trio’s name] but as we recorded it on the organ at Highgate church it was kind of hard to play live.” No such problems second time around for the drummer who was born in Israel but lives in the UK.
“Steve Lodder used a special midi keyboard and the sound is very different, although it still has that organ feel. But perhaps the biggest difference for us when we play is that we can see each other now! That opens up routes of communication, which is kind of important to what this music is all about”
But what is Sirkis’ composing all about as represented by the trio of himself on often pile driving drums, Steve Lodder on keyboards and Mike Outram on guitar? It’s big, often loud, spacious and spacy music, gossamer light one moment, sweatily visceral the next. Critics have drawn comparisons with Tony Williams’ Lifetime but somehow it’s more Sun Ra-meets-The Nice-meets-Messaien-meets-Allan Holdsworth.
It has also bought Sirkis the backhanded compliment from one jazz journalist that he has “the ear of a composer, not a drummer,” as though somehow drummers can’t be composers. Sirkis laughs quietly at the absurdity, but recognises that the stereotype of drummers slogging away in the engine room while suffering the band’s worst jokes still runs deep.
But then Sirkis isn’t keen on stereotypes in general. Indeed, he reacts gently but firmly against the whole notion of identity, the naming process that he feels limits imagination and spirit, whether the subject is music or people or politics. Even to use the J word is dangerous.
“Jazz is a dangerous word, music cannot be defined. The people who make timeless music – Miles, Monk – did not think in those terms. Only later did people call it jazz. To give it a name made it comfortable meant it could be put safely in a drawer. But those definitions were not made by musicians. Those terms bounce back on the musicians who feel they must be a ‘jazz’ drummer or a ‘rock’ drummer. And of course when you say you are one thing, you cannot be the other”
For Sirkis, who grew up in Israel and only left to settle in the UK six years ago, the question of identity is not just an intellectual conundrum. It can be a matter of life or death.
“The idea of identity is rising here [Sirkis is referring to the immigration debate during the recent general election campaign] because it is a tool of people with power. They need an enemy. So if I am identified as an Israeli, by definition it is easy to identify a Palestinian. But take away the identity, where is the enemy? I did my national service for three years, and they wanted to put me in a combat unit. I didn’t have the guts to do what many musicians did, and get a piece of paper from a psychiatrist saying I was mad. You have to prove you’re mad to get out of doing something that is totally crazy!”
Luckily Sirkis was only forced into clerical duties, but national service was still “a complete waste of three years”. Afterward he spent the best part of eight years trying to find outlets for his creativity “but it often meant playing Jewish weddings five nights a week.” So the West beckoned as it did for many of his contemporaries.
But after relatively unhappy times in mainland Europe, Sirkis followed his wife to London and was amazed by the welcome he received from the capital’s music community. In his first week he met saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, but he rapidly found work in a range of different musics, collaborating with the likes of Julian Siegel, Gary Husband and Tim Garland. Although the first couple of years were not ‘easy’ for Sirkis, “lots of taking my drum kit home on the night bus”, he revelled in a scene that was open, energetic and refreshingly without prejudice.
For those who are quick to trash the British scene as parochial or newcomers as unwanted, then the words of a man who has travelled far in miles and spirit need to be heeded. “I was blown away when I came to London. Even in places like Holland and Paris, their kind of small, closed scene is not accepting to foreigners. You had to have time and money to make it. Sure, London is expensive but if you are good, and can communicate, it is all there and it will come to you eventually.”
Ironically, the work which has made Sirkis one of the most wanted of drummers has meant that his “vision is remote from the music I often do. Most musicians have an agenda, something to say but I try to compose music with the minimal ideas possible. I like this record because it has 60 per cent less ideas than the last one!”
The less generous may suggest few musicians have any idea about what they’re playing, but there is a serious underpinning to Sirkis’ quest for music that is free of thought and intellectual intention.
He openly recognises the influences behind the trio’s music
“Messiaen and Allan Holdsworth may seem different but aren’t really in spirit,” he says, only half joking
“If I must ‘stand for’ something, then the core of what I do is idea-less music: where the ideas end that is where the music begins. That is why Sun Ra is so important to me, his poetry as well as his music. He says that music is all about that bottomless pit; it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, there is nothing here, we’re just falling’”
Andy Robson, Jazzwise, June 2005
Keeping The Spirit Moving, Interview with Nick Lea, Jazz Views web-site, July 2005
Drummer, bandleader and composer, Asaf Sirkis, has some strong opinions on how jazz is defined, and the limitations that this can potentially inflict on musicians and listeners alike. He explains all to NickLea.
Over the last five years, drummer, Asaf Sirkis has steadily built a reputation not simply as one of the finest on the UK scene but also has one of the most versatile and adventurous. Whether playing in a straight ahead combo, steering Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble, or driving his own trio Inner Noise he brings a commitment and musicality to his playing that transcends simple categorisation. Sirkis has strong views on the music that he plays, and when interviewed was always willing to most eloquently and intelligently to share his opinions in a manner that is as compelling to listen to as his playing. So how did the story begin?
“There was always music at home“ explained Asaf. “My father would put on lots of classical music, and my brother was playing the piano and later he became an Opera singer. When I was ten I really wanted to play bass guitar but some guy in the music conservatory told me that I’ll have to study classical guitar for 4 years before I can get my hands on a bass…weird isn’t it? That wasn’t good because I was in a hurry!! Then gradually I started hitting things around the house as if they were drums. A year later my dad bought me a drum kit and I started taking drum lessons and 2 months later I was playing in school bands.” Even at this early stage Asaf was committed to playing music wherever and whenever possible, as he recalls “It was a great time! I was in a few bands and we used to hang out all weekends, play and record each others music on cassettes… that’s how I got into what you can call jazz.”
However, as well as jazz, Sirkis had a healthy interest in many other types of music which remains intact to this day. “Oh definitely, as a kid I really liked the Mussorgsky, Beatles, Police, then I got in to Yes, Genesis, Weather Report, Allan Holdsworth, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Olivier Messiaen, John Coltrane“ he says enthusiastically. “And as time has elapsed you can add guitarists John Scofield, John McLaughlin and Terje Rypdal, along with Sun Ra, Maurisce Durufle and Bach who have all influenced my playing.” What, no drummers, I enquire? “Of course” laughs Asaf “where do I start? Well there’s Jack DeJohnette, Tony Williams and in this country Gary Husband.”
In his formative years in Israel, Asaf continued his musical studies also finding time to play in as many bands as possible, and as is the case for musicians all over the world, trying to make a living. As has become his wont, he did not just confinie himself to any one musical genre although jazz did play a part in his musical activities at this time. “Jazz is in an odd word” explains the drummer, “I think that the way this word is understood here very differently than in Israel. I was always interested in any kind of creative music but yes, I guess I can say that I was playing some Jazz related musics.
But actually, most of the time in Israel I spent trying to make a living playing in weddings, klezmer or folk bands – there was no way I could survive playing only the music I wanted to play and it was only when I came to London that I started to play ‘Jazz’ as ‘we’ understand it, professionally.”
“There was a jazz scene happening in Israel” continues Asaf. Whether it was healthy or nor is another matter altogether. It was healthy in the sense that you had to be really determined and to work hard to get something going. Those people I use to play with in Israel like Harold Rubin and Albert Beger are my heroes; they never stopped, always created something else despite the intolerant environment. You could hear that extreme determination and faith in their music. I think that’s part of the reason why the emphasis in Israel is on the expressive/emotional factor rather than the language thing. There is a strong sense of urgency in everything.”
Despite the inherent difficulties in playing the music he loved in his native country, it was in Israel that he recorded his first album as leader, and also formed the first edition of the Inner Noise'.
“Yes, I recorded a piano trio album called One Step Closer. The strange thing was that immediately after we recorded the album I woke up the next morning and felt as if somebody else had woken up, a completely different person.…it was then that I started writing music for the church organ. I was hearing a lot of Messiaen’s Organ music at the time. Then I thought it would be good to have guitar and drums in it too – guitar is one of my favourite instruments! But where do you find a church organ in Israel? – I don’t know!! The first Inner Noise band in Israel was a quartet with bass, drums, guitar & keyboards. We did few gigs all of which where a complete disaster – we played one night in this arts centre, the room was well attended and after the first song has finished there was nobody there! On another occasion the police were trying to stop us from playing in the middle of a gig.”
asaf4This frustration in finding not just the opportunity to play, but to play the music he loved with such a negative reaction was one of the reasons that Asaf decided a move was necessary. As Asaf recalls “I left Israel mainly because I couldn’t find how to play my music or the music I liked to play and make a living… also because of the general atmosphere in Israel which I found not very tolerant. Serving in the Israeli army for 3 years didn’t get my music anywhere either.
In 1998 I left with Gabriela (my wife) and moved to Holland and stayed there for a bit, and then went to France (Paris) for a few months and finally to London (April 99). It was a time of many changes; it was great to start all over again – to be no one. I learned so much from that.”
“Upon moving to London the plan was to get a band of my own and start gigging with it at some stage. I was sure from the very start that London would be a good place for me. When I came here for a visit previously I was blown away by the amount of music and gigs going on! One day I was walking in Hyde Park when I saw these weird radical people shouting religious texts passionately. I thought – WOW!! That is it!! But the first two years or so in London where tough, I didn’t have a car so I had to carry the drums on tubes and busses but gigs started to come in, I bought a car and gradually I was able to live more comfortably.”
For the last five years Asaf has been seen across the UK and Europe touring with Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble. An exciting band with which Atzmon has used to great personal effect in getting across his unique vision of jazz and 20th century music, Gilad has also done much to introduce UK audiences to a wide cross section of musical dialects and styles. I asked Asaf if this was very much the way that he approached his own music, utilising music from his own cultural heritage with jazz and western classical music? “The essence of music or the non-identity in it is the most interesting for me. Not the language or the style. Yes, I do have my influences and I did grow up in Israel but I never felt a need to introduce that to people as I never really felt as if I’m part of that. Really, I do not see myself as an ‘Israeli’, ‘Middle Eastern’, ‘jazz drummer’, etc… What I’d like to point out through music is utterly simple - I am a human being and it is only when Identity stops that music can begin.”
And it is this overall concept that has driven Sirkis to reform the Inner Noise in the UK with keyboad player, Steve Lodder and guitarist Mike Outram. In full flow this band must generate some excitement live, and suggested to Asaf that probably raised a few eye brows in using the church organ in the way they did on the debut CD. Asaf laughs “Yes, eye brows where risen. I like that album (‘Inner Noise’); I still listen to it from time to time. It was difficult to find venues that had a church organ to play that music. We did one gig at St. Cypriot’s church in London which was great!! And perhaps we’ll do some more church gigs in the future but realistically what happens is that Steve is using a special keyboard set-up with bass pedals (church organ like). We ended up doing that on almost all the gigs.”
fallingThe use of the keyboards is also evident on the bands new album, We Are Falling which is released this month. “After playing like that for a while we kind of got a sound together and then I thought – this is it!” explains Asaf “This is how we approached the new album as well. I thought ‘Let’s do it as if we’re playing live!’, and I’m really happy we did that – it really captures our live sound.
“As far as the compositions go, the first album is a kind of scream; the music was composed in Israel. I was young and angry. Recording that music was like trying to build a big wall of sound and smashing it at the same time…I think that in the new CD there is a reduction of concepts and ideas, there is more peace in it and the result is more organic. It’s more of a band album.”
So with the release of We Are Falling is this a the beginning of a new stage in the drummers career, moving more into the limlight to take care of business and lead his own band on a permanent basis? “Yes - it’s always so great to play with Steve and Mike. They are such great and inspired musicians. Steve is one of the most unique and natural musician I ever played with, he is a true improviser! And Mike is such a powerful guitarist, his understanding of the music is so deep! This forthcoming tour to promote the CD is just wonderful for me! And I’d like to do that more and more. I’d like to bring this band to the centre of my work and to dedicate more time for getting it there. I’ve also started writing some new music now…lets see where that takes us…
Nick Lea, July 2005, Copyright © 2002-2005 Jazzviews
Interview, Jazz East Magazine
Asaf Sirkis is a great young Israeli drummer who, since his arrival in Britain in April 1999, has began to make major waves on British jazz scene. You may have seen him all ready in Cambridge with sax wizard, Gilad Atzmon – a fellow Israeli – and the latter's middle eastern - influenced Orient House Ensemble earlier this year. You may also have caught him further afield playing with Irish vocalist Christine Tobin. Brit – sax star Martin Speak and drummer and pianist Gary Husband, amongst many others, over the past two years. Asaf's now being here long enough to feel sufficiently confident to try out his own thing. Inner Noise, his trio, is the result. Intriguing prospect it is too.
Formed last year, the band comprises drums, keyboards and guitar, with the drums full on and centre staged. Steve Lodder's atmospheric church organ sound gives the music a highly atmospheric feel, toped off by Mike Outram's sweeping guitar. What's behind the music? '
'We're very much influenced by a lot of modern classical organ works,(Durufle, Messaien), and by some of the big progressive rock bands of the 1970's, such as Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer', Asaf explains. Certainly the rock- classical influence is to the fore on the bands demos. So, is it jazz? 'It's certainly with jazz context', Asaf states. All three musicians are well- loved jazzers in their own right. Aside from Asaf, Lodder was last seen here with Monica Vasconcelos's Noise, last autumn; Outram is regular with Dave O'higgins's band, amongst others.
But there's even greater diversity in the melting pot. Asaf's own ethnic background has a strong bearing on the music. Growing up in a small town south of Tel Aviv, he was exposed to a whole host of classical Arabic sounds, influences which also affect the overall musical structure. This Arabic influence has cemented by working with top classical Palestinian musicians shortly before he left Israel. In other words expect jazz mixed with classical organ mixed with prog- rock mixed with Middle Eastern sounds. A real boundary pusher, musically.
Why did he come to England? The deteriorating political situation was certainly a factor. Asaf explains: 'One of the first things that suffers in that environment is art and most of all jazz'. Than there was a lack of work opportunities for modern jazz musicians in Israel,' I couldn't find places to play apart from the occasional Jewish weddings', he states. Finally there was the draw- factor of coming to play with many of the musicians he most admires. Bill Bruford, Alan Holdsworth, Gary Husband- all were major influences.
It's a tribute to the open mindedness of British jazz musicians that Asaf's received a very warm welcome. 'I've been really fortunate', he states. 'It's a good vibe here'.
Dan Somogyi, Jazz East Magazine, August 2001, UK
Asaf Sirkis & the Inner Noise - Inner Noise
Renaissance Man CD Review
Inner Noise - Epic Fusion For The 21st Century
Asaf Sirkis, the world class drum phenomenon reminiscent of Jack DeJohnette and Tony Williams at the height of their powers that's taken the British scene by storm over the last few years, is perhaps best known as the engine of the rhythm section of the equally phenomenal Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble (and the Gilad Atzmon Quartet). The recently released album "Inner Noise" features the UK's leading drummer with his own trio, Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise.
Originally partially commissioned by the Department of Arts of the Tel Aviv City Council, Sirkis' "Inner Noise" project was performed around Israel in 1997 to 1998 prior to his moving to the UK. Since moving to Britain in 1999, Asaf Sirkis has re-formed his Inner Noise trio with organist/keyboardist Steve Lodder and guitarist Mike Outram. "Inner Noise", Sirkis' second solo album was recorded in March 2002 at St. Michael's Church in Highgate, North London, and released in 2003 on Konnex Records. Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise are about as far as you can get from a conventional organ trio, not only featuring as it does full-blown church organ rather than the traditional Hammond B3, but moreover, playing music on a truly epic, even monumental scale.
First impressions of "Inner Noise" might recall Miles Davis and the Bitches' Brew project and John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra in its first incarnation, as well as prog rock bands Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes (though without the remotest hint of the latter's near-plagiarism). But such comparisons could never do this album proper justice, for it goes far beyond any of these yet maintains a far greater accessibility than Davis' and McLaughlin's brands of fusion. While all these are certainly influences, "Inner Noise" also shows clear influences of modern classical organ composers, in particular Olivier Messiaen, as well as of Arabic classical music. Sirkis gives all three instruments broadly equal importance and sculpts a vast soundscape of monumental proportions, employing strong, rich textures as well as delicate, transparent ones as appropriate, and making fullest use of the rich palette available to him, both in terms of the overall instrumental colours and the colours of his own trap set. His drumming is as brilliantly virtuosic and inventive as has indeed become his trademark, combining subtlety and sheer effervescent exuberance, even ecstasy, and while running a tight ship, Sirkis also gives his fellow band members plenty of space where appropriate. Lodder's and Outram's playing complements the master drummer's perfectly, with both superb ensemble playing and outstanding soloing.
The result is an album that is utterly absorbing and compelling and reveals Sirkis as a very formidable composer and arranger indeed. "Inner Noise" doesn't just push boundaries, it completely transcends them and thus defies categorisation. To describe it as a fusion of jazz, classical and progressive rock would tell only half the story. You could file "Inner Noise" under any of these genres, but you'll never confine it, any more than you could define it. One previous reviewer suggested the label "Gothic Jazz", a horrific oversimplification in my opinion if not a downright abomination. Far better to focus on just enjoying the experience that Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise provide with this most remarkable and intense album.
The opener, "Lucidity", is in many respects the track most reminiscent of Mahavishnu, but where the latter frequently lost themselves Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise never lose sight of the final destination. The tight reign Sirkis keeps and the flowing, high-energy improvs make for a powerful combination that gets things on the boil straight off. "Three Ways" starts off reflectively and somewhat tentatively before turning into an intense guitar-driven exploration. True to its title, "Hope" is mainly pervaded by optimism albeit with somewhat "gothic" touches in the organ here and there that are reminiscent at once of Bach's (greater) Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and of Messiaen generally. The guitar work often reminds of Carlos Santana in his jazziest period in the early 1970s, with strong Coltranean touches. On "Floating", a meditative piece, a high guitar gently floats above a mainly subdued, almost drone-like organ and Sirkis' imaginative, sensitive trap work. The title track, "Inner Noise", features some of the most intense improvs and builds up formidable tension that is only resolved in the final lighter organ chords. "Desert Vision" is perhaps the most balladic of the pieces, calm, quiet, almost laid-back if it weren't for an almost tangible feeling of desolation in the wide open sound spaces. Organ and guitar are also given considerable space on "The Only Way", the intensity building up progressively to a near-climactic conclusion. The balladic "Questions" is again more meditative, and quite delicate. "White Elephant" provides the high-intensity closer, very considered, deliberate drumming framing an increasingly impassioned organ and driving guitar, only to temporarily drop into a reflective, quiet interlude that further underscores the leviathan nature and proportions of this composition as it continues to unfold to its inevitable climax.
Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise boldly go where fusion only hesitantly put out the odd foot before, and where prog rock could at best dream of going had it dared to. The music is vibrant, vital, exciting and fresh and even manages to surprise. One of these surprises is its wonderful accessibility and immediacy. "Inner Noise" has to be essential in any modern jazz and modern classical collection at the very least. Grab the original issue while you can as it's almost guaranteed to become a prized collectible.
© 2004 Renaissance Man/Rainlore (All rights reserved), February 2004, UK
Jazz Review, Canada, September 2005
Inner Noise contains many surprises along with interesting compositions from Israeli born drummer Asaf Sirkis. Utilizing a style of writing that allows for contributions from this well thought out trio. Everyone has an opportunity to stretch out and share ideas. St. Michael's church in Highgate, London is the perfect location for the trio to perform. With it's natural ambiance, The trio sounds right at home.
"Lucidity" is an intense piece featuring Outam's captivating guitar. Playing with notes as if they were silly putty, Outram delves deep into the melody with searing abandon. Lodder's classical sounding organ adds a haunting flavor to the mix.
Lodder and Outram's stirring intro to "Hope" continues throughout with Lodder's powerful organ leading the way. Outram works his magic weaving in and out of the melody with confidence. Cascading notes emerge from Lodder in such a way as to invoke a religious dimension. Sirkis's drumming keeps everyone on track.
A spine chilling intro from Lodder on "Desert Vision" creates an eerie canvas for the rest of the group to work from. Carefully played cymbals along with sporadic guitar create a somewhat uneasy sound. Underlying this sound is a subtle beauty that offers many rewards to the listener. Upon careful examination, possibilities emerge.
"Questions" continues to haunt with creative expression and focus. Lodder's heavy use of the pedals adds a certain heaviness that can work well in an acoustically rich church setting.
Although many might consider this session to be somewhat unorthodox, the trio is able to work with Sirkis's compositions on many levels. Intensity, depth and commitment are three words that best describe Inner Noise. After one listen, you get a sense that you are somehow spiritually renewed, and that in a world of tribulation, there is still hope and longing for better things to come.
Randy McElligott, Jazz Review, Canada, 15/9/2005
The Jazz Organ Archive web Site CD review
"Inner Noise", a composition of the Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis living in Great Britain, is performed by a trio which at the first glance looks like a typical organ trio. But when listening to the music of this CD you will experience a great difference to what you could have assumed.
The church organ gives the composition its own character: The mighty sound expands a wide aerea of harmonies which remind us modern classic organ music such as of Olivier Messiaen. Steve Lodder uses the instrument with full work nearly throughout the total composition. Only in the songs "Desert Vision" and "Questions" Steve plays with low voices, almost tenderly and contemplatively.
Sirkis grants each of the instruments its own room, so the organ is not dominant at all. The guitar fills the foreground with rocky figures and a slightly distorted sound, which lets you feel the rock sound of the late 60's. The drums play an original part really brilliantly.
Remains the question of the kind of music: Is it bop, rock, fusion, modern jazz or what else? It is difficult to answer this question, as Sirkis' intense music seems to contain elements of different kinds, nonetheless creating a style of its own, influenced by his Middle East roots.
Juergen Wolf, The Organ Archive web-site, March 2004, Germany
CD review from Jazz Views web site
So what do we have here then, an organ trio with a difference, and yes you did read it correctly Steve Lodder does indeed play church organ. Recorded at St Michael’s Church in Highgate, London this unusual and absorbing album must have surely raised the rafters.
It was conceived, composed and arranged by drummer, Asaf Sirkis who is now firmly established with Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble and making a mark for himself as a truly creative and imaginative (and much in-demand) player. The project was partially commissioned by the Tel-Aviv City Council and was performed around Sirkis’ native Israel in 1997-98. Since his permanent move to the UK in 1999 he has maintained a busy recording and touring schedule, but has found the opportunity to reform the Inner Noise trio.
As the instrumentation would suggest, the sound is quite naturally dominated by the huge church organ, with the guitarist, Mike Outram, playing at a rock music intentsity with Asaf maintaining a tight rein on proceedings from the drum kit.
This should not give the impression that there is no light and shade within the music, as despite obvious pot-boilers such as the opening ‘Lucidity’ and ‘Hope’, there is the less intense ‘The Only Way’, in which organ and guitar are left more space allowing the composition to breathe freely. Quieter still are the ballads, Desert Vision’, with Outram’s patiently constructed and beautifully modulated solo; and the exquisite three minute duration of ‘Questions’ in which Steve Lodder makes full opportunity to bring out the delicacies inherent in the harmonies and the church organ.
Mike Outram is again excellent on ‘Floating’, a piece that does just that with the guitar hovering above the organ, and the piece underpinned by Sirkis’ sensitive stick work; and Steve Lodder shows his mastery of his instrument with a majestic solo on the title track.
A set influenced by modern classical music and the work of Olivier Messiaen that mixes elements of jazz improvisation and progressive rock is just about as far as it is possible to get from the classic organ trios normally found in jazz, but this is truly moving and compelling music.
Nick Lea, Jazz Views web-site, April 2003, UK
Front Ears web-site CD review:
"Like a melange of Yes and the 1970s Mahavishnu Orchestra, with episodes of electric-ambience atmospherics" and references to composers such as Messiaen, declared John Fordham in his recent review of Asaf Sirkis' new album. It was meant as disapproval. To NFE it sounds more than a little encouraging. Sirkis, for those who don't know him, is a composer-drummer of daunting technical skills, a wide palette of sounds, and the desire to combine some of his passions from the vividly colourful and thoughtfully energetic ends of the classical-jazz-rock spectrum.
'Inner Noise' is Sirkis' second solo album (following his Trio debut with 'One Step Closer' in 1995), and his first in Europe since he arrived from Israel in 1999. Besides working with his own band (after which the latest album is named), Sirkis has performed regularly with Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble, Christine Tobin, the Phil Robson Trio, Martin Speake and Adel Salameh (a Palestinian oud player/composer). He occasionally plays with Theo Travis, Emmanuel Bex, Ari Brown, Gary Husband, John Taylor, John Etheridge, Dave O'Higgins, Claude Deppa and others. This is some pedigree.
Inner Noise consists of Sirkis on drums / percussion alongside Mike Outram on electric guitar and classically trained Steve Lodder (famed for his work with Andy Sheppard and Joanna MacGregor) on organ. The album features nine pieces: "Lucidity" (7:46),"Three Ways" (4:59), "Hope" (8:30), "Floating" (6:53), "Inner Noise" (8:45), "Desert Vision" (11:19), "The Only Way" (9:12), "Questions" (3:06), and "White Elephant" (12:05). It was originally commissioned by the Tel Aviv Department of Arts and toured in Israel during 1997-98, but has taken just over four years to see the light of day on disc. I've only heard a few clips, but it sounds a fascinating brew, and nothing like the monochromatic disappointment indicated by Fordham. Look out also for supporting tour dates on the European Jazz Network pages.
See also James Griffiths' review of Asaf Sirkis with saxophonist Atzmon at London's Pizza Express Jazz Club earlier in February 2003, where the band drew on source materials ranging from eastern European folk through to hard bop, funk and French accordion music. Like his Israeli compatriot, Sirkis has been openly and courageously critical of his government's treatment of the Palestinian people.
Reviewed by Simon Barrow, March 2003, UK
CD Review, Jazz UK
Here's one that defies categorizations. Asaf Sirkis, the brilliant drummer with Gilad Atzmon's Orient House Ensemble, has here stumbled on a sub-genre that might become known as Gothic Jazz. The music is doom-laden and bombastic, yet strangely compelling. It has a strong flavour of Europian church music – Steve Lodder plays real church organ – and might appeal to anyone nostalgic for Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The rest of us can respond to the way Sirkis animates the church organ with his churning rhythms as guitarist Mike Outram floats above the melee with single-line solos that climax in crying high notes. The ecstasy owes to rock as much as rigorous old European church music.
Mike Butler, Jazz UK, March/April 2003 (Issue 50), UK
Jon Freer's CD Review
This long player from Asaf & The Inner Noise is a distinct composition that sees the guitar, church organ and
drums take equal importance. Composed and arranged by renowned drummer Asaf Sirkus, it is an album of jazz
toned classically non-secular feeling rock touched cuts. "Three Ways" is an expressive guitar led piece, with
pensive organ keys, explorative chords and crashing theatrical percussion. "Hope" looks towards the future,
courtesy of optimistic keys, buoyant drumming and a positive guitar. "Desert Vision" takes a humming bass,
slow walking cymbals, afraid keys and a comfortable guitar to produce a visualization of a desolate and lonely
landscape. "White Elephant" is a big presence at the end of the album, with its passionate moving organ, slow
hulking percussion and strong moving guitar. A unique sound.
Jon Freer, 17th April 2003, UK
Gig preview, Jazzwise magazine, July 2002
Asaf Sirkis at 606 Club,
There's a ridiculous amount of talent coming up on the UK jazz scene at the moment. Almost too much, considering the lack of venues. If you talking drummers, then you have to mention the likes of Seb Rochford, Tom Skinner, Troy Miller, and, Asaf Sirkis – a brilliant, Jack Dejohenette-inspired percussion freak, who as well as powering Gilad Atzmon's band, leads his own quartet at the 606 tonight.
Tom Barlow, July 2002, London
Other press Quotes
...'the music goes in directions prog rockers would never dream of - or could never play....intriguing, especially for the delight the trio take in pure sound'.
From a CD review by Peter Bacon, Birmingham Post March 29, 2003
...'Sirkis plays brilliantly, as do Lodder and Outram'...
John Fordham, The Guardian, UK
'NOTTINGHAM JAZZHOUSE audiences have been accustomed to bands experimenting with new sounds and pushing back the boundaries of contemporary music, but this trio has certainly come up with something different... 'Propelling the two front liners was the explosive percussion by leader Asaf, building the tension with a whole plethora of omni-directional polyrhythms with great skill'.
Inner Noise gig review, James Griffiths, Feb 2000
Ballsy enough to admit that one of his inspirations was the ProgRock of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, as well as more fashionable jazz and classical names, British-Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis has come up with the sort of unselfconscious fusion CD that it seemed they didn't make any more.
Ken Waxman, Weekly Jazz july 2004
The Asaf Sirkis original "Song For Two Bendirs" is an outstanding show-piece. Sirkis' virtuosity and his bendir are breathtaking and well reveal the expressive complexity and wide tonal palette that the frame drum is capable of.
Renaissance Man/Rainlore April. 2004
And what a rhythm section. The star was ASAF SIRKIS on drums – a cross between Elvin Jones and Jack de Johnette. His enthusiastic enjoyment of his role, his keen observation of the nuances of the saxes’ sounds and his technical brilliance eg incorporating one-handed pressed rolls and cymbal licks at the same time, together with rhythmic surprises, was quite breathtaking.
Eddie Gibbs (gig review at Lewes Jazz Club), January 2004
Asaf Sirkis entlockt seinem Schlagzeug mit Wucht und doch gleichsam aus dem Handgelenk lautmalerische Rhythmen und treibende "Grooves".
Translation: Asaf Sirkis pulls out of his drums loud painting-like rythms and driving grooves, forceful yet effortless.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurt, Germany
…"I must mention Asaf Sirkis, our drummer. Not only is he left handed but his playing is also 'left-handed'. He must be one of the most original musicians in Europe today. He has the ear of a composer, not a drummer. Has already recorded his own CD of original compositions, and appears on innumerable CDs of Israeli and European jazz. He regularly tours Holland and Paris with the Amir Perlman Quartet".
John Bostock, Jazz Chord (Australia) 1998
...''and Gilad's long-serving drummer, Asaf Sirkis (aka Peter Forskine) - an exceptional percussionist''...
...''Gilad's alto driven along by Sirkis' impeccable drumming.
Trudie Squires, the Bonnington Theatre gig review September 2006
...Asaf Sirkis, Whose impact on the UK jazz scene has ballooned in the past year through association with expatriate Israeli saxophonist Gilad Atzmon, and the Italian Renato D'Aiello, opens the proceedings with percussion improvisation of typical incisiveness.
John Fordham, May 2002, from Mark Latimer's CD "Unhinged" Take #2
…and behind him, Sirkis drums with marvelous invention and technical virtuosity. He has the be-bop rattle of Roy Haynes and the cymbal deftness of Tony Williams. He makes a traditional martial snare drum sound pulsate like a heartbeat of love. A rare and brilliant drummer indeed.
Chris Searle, the Morning Star, 2001
…This is a fine guitar trio set, with the thrilling drumming of Asaf Sirkis (who gives a lift to everything he plays on) and the majestic John Taylor…
John Fordham, the Guardian, May 2002
…But it is his music triumphing over politics rapport with an Israeli, Asaf Sirkis, an unassuming master percussionist, that quickens the pulse. With his tapping fingers, gently stroking palms, and rapping knuckles, Sirkis's sound sculpting on what looks like a velumed garden riddle makes mockery of those rock drummers with their estates of hittable hardware.
Rob Adams, the Herald (Scotland), Nov. 1999. This trio featured Asaf's Bendir playing (a Turkish frame drum).
…The ensemble similarly evoke haunting stretches of space on the mainly ballad-type material, the musical sensibilities of atzmon's fellow Israeli drummer and Bandir player Asaf Sirkis allowing the music to breathe.
Selwyn Harris, Jazz Wise, April 2003
…On drums, Sirkis confirmed the stature he has established with Gilad Atzmon, with sonorous, Elvin Jones-like solo flights on mallets, and taut, sharp-eared ensemble playing.
John Fordham, the Guardian. A review of Martin Speak's 'Unison' quartet gig at the 'Vorlex', London, Feb 2002
Drummer Asaf Sirkis was tremendous, playing Arabic rhythms on hand drums or using the kit in a flowing Elvin Jones/ Danny Richmond manner.
Charley Dunlap, Bath Chronicle. A review of Gilad Atmon's O.H.E gig at the 'Albert Inn', Bristol, October 2001.
…and Gilad Atzmon's excellent rhythm section of bassist Ollie Hayhurst and the effervescent Asaf Sirkis on drums.
John Fordham, the Guardian, Jan. 2002
Drummer Asaf Sirkis and pianist Frank Harrison strained towards cranium- shattering levels of intensity…
James Griffiths, five star review from the Guardian, Feb. 2003.
Pianist Frank Harrison and master percussionist Asaf Sirkis, were outstanding.
Evening Post, Nottingham, June 2003
''...Frank Harrison piano solo backed by Asaf Sirkis's masterly drumming.''
Stuart Nicholson, The Observer, October 2004
…and scurrying hand-drumming from the excellent Asaf Sirkis.
John Fordham, the Guardian, Oct. 2001
Asaf Sirkis creates individual effects on an entirely conventional kit.
Nick Jones, gig review, 2003
...reigning in the exuberance of the dynamic drummer, Asaf Sirkis...
Nick Lea, Jazz Views, Dec. 2003
...Asaf Sirkis' drum genius sparkles, his discipline is as intimidating as his enthusiasm is infectious...
Renaissance Man/Rainlore Feb. 2004
...and drummer Asaf Sirkis (best known as sticks-man for Gilad Atzmon), whose uniquely free style allows him to inhabit and shape the guts of a piece.
James Griffith, The Guardian, April 2004
''This is completely enhanced by the excellent drumming of Asaf Sirkis, which is both tight and charged with energy''
Rory Braddell, 02/07/2004, Music Meeting festival, Nijmegen, Holland
''Asaf Sirkis, its left handed drummer sparkled on Recreating the City of London''
Jack Massaric, The Evening Standard, 10/03/2005
''... the instrumental wizardry of the drummer Asaf Sirkis ...''
Alyn Shipton, The Sunday Times, 18/07/2005
''Fleshing out the core trio is percussionist Asaf Sirkis, who's equally comfortable on hand percussion and conventional drums''... ''Garland’s soprano saxophone, and Sirkis’ hand drums examine similar turf''
John Kelman, Allabout Jazz online magazine, Oct 2005
... ''Asaf Sirkis seemed to play only between the beats, achiving a state of rhythmic levitation'' ...
Alec Patton (Millenium Hall Review), Oct 2005
... ''sterling support from Asaf Sirkis'' ...
Music Review (Jazz), Feb 2006
... ''Sirkis was an intelligent, listening percussionist, following the soloists with an uncanny perception and producing brilliant solos''.
Alan Joyce, feb. 2006
...''joined by bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Asaf Sirkis, who provide far more than mere accompaniment. Hayhurst has good ideas of his own, and Sirkis is a constant stimulus.
Dave Gelly The Observer, April 2006