Gig Review:
Asaf Sirkis Trio At The Front Room, Southbank Centre, London SE1
on Friday, 3rd June 2011 as Part of The London Guitar Festival
Asaf Sirkis Trio

As Part of The London Guitar Festival

The Front Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall,
Southbank Centre
Belvedere Road
London SE1 8XX

Friday, 3rd June 2011, 5.30pm

Date of Review: 2011/06/05


Asaf Sirkis Trio:

Asaf Sirkis - drums
Carl Orr - guitar
Yaron Stavi - electric bass guitar
Asaf Sirkis Trio At The Front Room, Southbank Centre,
London SE1 on Friday, 3rd June 2011

No matter how often you have heard Asaf Sirkis, there is always something new and exciting awaiting you the next time, a new discovery, a new delight. One of, if not the premier drummer of our time internationally, Sirkis is not merely a great drummer but a great drummer whose creativity and inventiveness are simply devastating and leave you totally gobsmacked every time. Undoubtedly one of the hardest gigging and hardest recording musicians on the scene, Sirkis is in constant demand both with British and overseas greats, as well as touring extensively with his own outfit.

Thus, it was a great pleasure to be able to catch up with his own Asaf Sirkis Trio in London once again, this time at The Front Room at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of The London Guitar Festival. Despite this being an early date with a start time of 5.30pm, The Front Room was packed to capacity and flowing over into standing room only at the side.

Sirkis' trio is normally completed by bassist Yaron Stavi - an old band mate in Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble, whose regular bassist Stavi also still remains - one of the busiest and most versatile as well as one of the very finest bassists of his generation, and Tassos Spiliotopoulos, one of the brightest ascendant guitar stars on the scene. However, due to other commitments Spiliotopoulos was unable to attend. Deputising in his place however was another star attraction, the awesome Carl Orr, one of the true guitar geniuses of our age.

Despite performing and recording credits that could be the envy of anybody else as well as seven albums as leader, Orr is sadly not as much in the public consciousness yet as he so clearly deserves. It is fervently to be hoped that this situation will change swiftly.

The first set got under way with the opener of the Asaf Sirkis Trio's most recent album Letting Go, the dreamy, Carnatic-flavoured Chennai Dream. This set the mood for the whole performance, a dream of two sets, and also pegged the standard almost impossibly high.

Both sets provided a delightful mix of original material from Letting Go and earlier albums and standards, the second set ending with the enchanting Waltz For Rehovot, also the closer of the former album and dedicated to Sirkis' original hometown in Israel.

Sirkis' charming, charismatic and witty banter between every other piece included another dedication, that of Life Itself (another Asaf Sirkis original, from the album We Are Falling with his other trio, The Inner Noise) 'to the non-toll M6 motorway' as they tend to see more of this than of home and wives or girlfriends. Witty and amusing, it is also sadly pretty close to the bone. But such is a busy musician's life. It's all part of the price to be paid for a successful career. However, this dedication is where the connection between the M6 and Life Itself ends - it is a deeply spiritual, meditative number.

As for the performance itself, this was of the customary stratospheric Sirkis standard, way, way out there. (It is indeed remarkable how the Southbank Centre is able to present events of this calibre as free of charge on a regular basis.)

The moment Sirkis sits down behind and amongst his traps and starts playing, he becomes like a man transformed, a giant, a Paganini of the drum set, like a being from some higher sphere to which he takes the perceptive listener with him through his intensely spiritual music and playing. This is the realm of beauty and an infinite variety of colours, drawn from Sirkis' drums, cymbals and bells.

Thus it was last Friday evening. Even old standards were transformed into something new and exciting, into something somehow intensely spiritual by the Asaf Sirkis Trio. Sirkis' immense sensitivity and his boundless imagination, inspiration and creativity, combined with his atomic clock-like time keeping and timing, not to mention boundless energy, transcend his traps. He does not play his drums, they play him, to paraphrase Bird (Charlie Parker). Even the rich palette that Sirkis draws upon, from the most delicate pastels to rich, vibrant colours from a spectrum far wider than that of visible light, is unmatched. And even the fairly intense heat in the hall not only failed to affect him in any way, it simply seemed to not exist for Sirkis.

Performances such as Sirkis' are way out of the ordinary, everyday, and last Friday he excelled as always.

Yaron Stavi's exquisite bass, as ever, provided the perfect foil to Sirkis and the perfect grounding for Orr. The fat, juicy tone of his electric bass suit his solid, lyrical bass lines to a 't.' Stavi is as at home here and as sublime as he is with his double bass in the OHE.

Although Carl Orr has stood in for Spiliotopoulos before, it is nonetheless astonishing how easily and how well he blends in with the trio and with the music. Like the rest of the team, Orr's guitar work was nothing short of breathtaking.

All in all, this was another most memorable performance by the Asaf Sirkis Trio, with both exemplary ensemble playing and breathtaking soloing. Sadly, it is going to be a while before this world class trio can be heard again in London, especially at a larger venue such as this, but do keep a lookout on Sirkis' gig schedule on his web site.

Sirkis is not simply another event, he is an experience.

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