Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Asaf Sirkis Great new players.... Tassos piliotopoulos

I recently got turned on to these fellows....

“Devastatingly creative” (John Fordham, The Guardian on Asaf Sirkis)Following on from Tony Williams’ ‘Lifetime’, the Asaf Sirkis Trio picks up the baton and finds new space for a drummer-led trio in the noughties. ‘The Monk’, the group’s recording debut, will be released mid-September through Sam Productions. Asaf, a self-effacing Israeli ex-pat living in North London cuts a refreshing dash through London’s fertile jazz landscape. He reflects in a characteristically understated way, “For me, music begins where ideas finish”. Whilst an afternoon spent with Asaf will find him flitting between themes of existentialism, fatalism, political propaganda and loss it’s never something he does to be elitist. Maybe it’s the years working with Gilad Atzmon and the politics that swirl around their BBC-award-winning live performances, or the military service in Rehovot or the spates of self-imposed exile due to extreme tendonitis (the latter of which gave him the required writing time for this album) that have made him such an intriguing figure and have left telling traces on his accomplished musicianship. This group, a new electric power trio plays original material by Asaf and ranges from delicate jazzy ballads to hard rock-ish improvisations. The line up features Tassos Spiliotopoulos (guitar), Yaron Stavi (bass) and on occasion Asaf's long time friend, drummer and keyboardist Gary Husband on keys. Although Sirkis has been described as having the ‘drumming muscle for a thunderstorm’, dust off the surface a little and a sensitive writer shines through. Opening track “Stoned Bird” takes in Chick Corea-esque jazz fusion, whilst ‘Without A Story’ has a more post-rock feel. A piano solo on ‘The Bridge’ shows the variety on offer from a composer with a broad tonal palette, and title track ‘The Monk’ shows the contrast of pastoral organ with the rock antics of Tassos’ guitar - swinging it back into Tony Williams territory. The gothic rock descriptions that floated around his past record may again be referenced, but this album has a subtle style of its own. Asaf has previously collaborated with luminaries including Tim Garland and Larry Coryell, he has traveled across the globe playing with some of the best figures in jazz and won vast critical acclaim for Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble. Whilst acknowledging the politics and challenges that have coloured his life, this album stands alone as a beacon of contemporary British jazzfrom a truly international trio.

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

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.

Asaf Sirkis - Drums/Compositions
Tassos piliotopoulos - Guitar
Yaron Stavi - Electic Bass
Plus special guests:
Gary Husband - Keyboards & Piano
Adriano Adewale - Percussion
SAM Productions 9015 (2008)

1 Stone Bird
2 The Monk
3 The Bridge
4 Without A Story
5 Alone
6 End Of The Circle
7 Dream
8 The Journey Home

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