To be officially released on 23rd September, Asaf Sirkis Trio's Letting Go is their second album (Sirkis' fifth as a leader since he settled in the UK), now on Stonedbird Productions.
And now, for something completely different. The title could hardly be more apt. Letting Go is the Asaf Sirkis Trio, well, letting go. The spirituality and cerebralness are still there, but the mood is very different to Sirkis' previous offerings, being much more extrovert and light-hearted, happy, almost jolly, even in the more contemplative numbers. This is Asaf Sirkis' personality coming through to the full, for in truth, Sirkis' is one of the sunniest, nicest personalities you could hope to encounter. His co-conspirators, master bassist Yaron Stavi and guitar wiz Tassos Spiliotopoulos, are also given plenty of scope to bring out their personalities and styles. This is a trio that is comfortable with each other, that has grown together and has grown into a very tight unit. (They also perform as the Tassos Spiliotopoulos Trio.) On Other Stars And Planets and Ima, they are perfectly complemented by guest artist Patrick Bettison's outstanding, magical harmonica - you won't hear better jazz harmonica in these isles. That Bettison should have no difficulty fitting in is easy enough to understand when you bear in mind that he also plays with Sirkis in the Nicolas Meier Group as well as Meier's electric trio.
Sirkis is utterly devastating as always on Letting Go, as breathtakingly creative as a drummer as he is as a composer, drawing deep from within, letting the music emerge from his inspiration and instinct. Generally, the influences of prog rock are more to the fore here than previously, as well as those of earlier fusion exponents such as Allan Holdsworth. In addition, Sirkis' continuing interest in Carnatic music finds expression on the opening track, Chennai Dream, with an attractive unison line in Carnatic style.
The trap work shows off Sirkis' incredibly expansive palette and out-of-this-world cymbal work, as well as his perfection of timing and time-keeping, that have long made him the foremost and most in-demand jazz drummer anywhere with a schedule with all the good and great everywhere that seems almost impossibly busy. Yet, as indeed one would expect from such a truly great drummer, with all his brilliant virtuosity Sirkis never becomes over-indulgent and avoids excessive "trap-crobatics" for their own sake. As always, he finds the perfect balance between exuberance and restraint. Asaf Sirkis' trap work is, then, sheer joy, and one could happily listen to him soloing for hours, unfolding his soundscapes and textures that here range from rich to the almost fragile, filigree-like.
The compositions on Letting Go are equally as strong, sometimes harkening back to earlier work here and there. Sirkis finds just the right balance between composition and soloing and gives Spiliotopoulos and Stavi plenty of scope and freedom to shine. Letting Go is more lyrical still than the previous The Monk and has the quality of a happy dream. With his Asaf Sirkis Trio, and especially this current offering, Sirkis has taken fusion to yet another new level. His creativity seems boundless and almost frightening, especially when you realise that Sirkis has far from reached his peak yet, both as a composer and as a drummer.
With Letting Go, Sirkis' music remains as accessible and subtle as ever, full of charm, delicacy and wit, as well as an irresistible vitality, immediacy and vibrancy. The feeling is almost that of a live recording. Inspired as well as inspiring, this music sets your imagination alight.
As you could take for granted with Sirkis, Letting Go is a thoroughly consistent album, with not a single weak track to be found, and is utterly compelling, even riveting. Asaf Sirkis is more than just a great drummer and composer, he is a force of nature. Do yourself a favour and, in addition to buying this album (for the impatient, advance copies are available now on Sirkis' web site and from Jazz CDs UK) treat yourself to attending the launch gig (details on the main Jazz page). It's bound to be a very special experience, as indeed any Sirkis live performance is. Don't miss out!
The Asaf Sirkis Trio's Letting Go is, like any Sirkis release, far beyond essential in any good modern jazz collection, and particularly so in any fusion collection. The same applies to any good collection of contemporary drumming as well as any good guitar collection. Not to be missed!
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