I knew Asaf Sirkis’ drumming from a favourite album of mine – John Law’s ‘Congregation’. So it was great to see him live twice in one week – with Geoff Eales’ Isorhythm at Stratford Jazz on 3 June and with his own Trio on 11 June (line-ups below). In both cases I was not disappointed and found myself enjoying the gigs far more than I’d expected. I was initially wary of Isorhythm with its electric basses, fretless and otherwise. So why was I moved by these 2 gigs? I mentioned my reaction to guitarist Carl Orr (of Isorhythm) afterwards and he said “We put our hearts and soul into this, it’s not as easy as it looks”. There were tunes that remained with you the next morning. We knew we were in for something special when we saw Asaf silently drumming on a bar table before the gig.
Asaf’s Trio consists of a bass guitar, guitar and his drums. They played 10 compositions, all by Asaf. The gig started with Chennai Dream, with delicate riffs on the guitars, gentle tunes and drumming that held it all together. You are always aware of Asaf, whether he has his eyes tightly closed or when he beams encouragement to his band, he is very much a leader. Is this really the same drummer who plays so gently with John Law? Well yes, and he’s mesmerising. It’s not just technique, it’s something spiritual, a ferocious intellect combined with deep feeling.
I was gripped when they got to Other Stars and Planets which took us on a rocket trip, maybe it was Telstar with crackle and static, it worked as well as the harmonica version of the same track. The evening was beautifully paced – a delicate rendition of Lady of the Lake (which put paid to my silly notion that electric guitars are always loud) was followed by the extraordinarily looped and thunderous Meditation and complex but accessible Letting Go. I was moved by Ima about his Mother (with drums like distant thunder) and Waltz for Rehovot (his home town in Israel). I could see the landscape, feel his sense of rootedness to it. The set ended with Life Itself, inspired by the late Tony Williams.
So just 4 hours at two gigs has changed my view of guitars in jazz for ever. Thank you Geoff and Asaf!
Geoff Eales http://www.geoffeales.com/ Isorhythm:
Geoff Eales – keyboards
Ben Waghorn ( various reeds)
Carl Orr ( guitar)
Fred T Baker ( fretless bass)
Asaf Sirkis ( drums)