Take Five With Asaf Sirkis
Born in 1969 in Petah-Tikva, Israel, Asaf later moved to the town of Rehovot, where he spent his teens and early twenties. This was an influential move for Asaf, as it was here amongst the diverse cultural influences he found in Rehovot that Asaf began to show an interest in music and rhythm. In Rehovot he lived amongst people from North Africa, east and central Europe, and the Middle East. Living in Shaarayim, the Yemenite neighbourhood in Rehovot, Asaf was particularly drawn to Yemenite culture, music, and rhythms.
At the age of 12 Asaf began drum lessons, while also having a strong interest in playing electric bass. The music that influenced Asaf at the time still influences his writing and playing till this day; The Beatles, Police, Yes, Genesis, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Allan Holdsworth, and Weather Report to name a few.
19871990 Asaf did his compulsory national service.
Out of the army in 1990, Asaf started his professional career as a musician playing with many different young jazz-rock, Kleizmer, world music, and free jazz bands. During that time he co-operated with Israel's local Jazz/world luminaries such as Harold Rubin, Albert Beger, Yair Dlal and Eyal Sela. Many of those early projects where recorded and released by a pioneer jazz record label in Israel called Jazzis (founded by Adam Baruch). Around those years Asaf started to write music but it wasn't until 1995 when he formed his first trio that he found an outlet for his writing.
In 1993 moved to Tel-Aviv. While making his living playing mainly Jewish music Asaf continued to develop his own voice as a drummer and composer until, in 1995, formed his own trio (consisting of Kobi Arad on keyboards and Gabriel Mayer on bass) and recorded his first album One Step Close (Independent).
In 1996, Inspired by French Church Organ composers such as Olivier Messiaen, Maurice Durufle and Cesar Frank he formed a unique new band The Inner Noise, consisting of church organ, electric guitar and drums (with Adi Goldstein on organ and Amir Perelman on guitar). The Inner Noise's first project was commissioned by the Arts department of the Tel-Aviv City Council and was performed around Israel in 1997-8.
In October 1998 Asaf left Israel for Holland and then to France, and in April 1999 he settled to London.
In London, Asaf very soon become a part of the UK Jazz and world music scene. During that year he started working with Adel Salameh, a Palestinian oud player/composer with whom he recorded the album Nuzha, which also featured, for the first time, Asaf's Middle Eastern frame drum playing.
Soon after arriving to the UK Asaf re-formed the Inner Noise band with Steve Lodder on organ and Mike Outram on guitar.
In 2000 Asaf met Gilad Atzmon, which was to be a start of a creative musical collaboration that remains to this day. With Atzmon they formed The Orient House Ensemble. This band has now recorded six albums (Orient House, Nostalgico, Exile, Musik, Artie Fishel & the Promised Band, and Refuge). OHE's album Exile has won the "Best CD of the Year" category at the BBC Jazz Award in 2003, and was nominated in the "Best Band" category in 2004. The OHE performs regularly in many high profile festival and venues in the UK and in Europe.
In 2003 Asaf recorded the Inner Noise's first album Inner Noise (Konnex). Inner Noise is widely considered a groundbreaking album and the music has been described as a new gender"Gothic Jazz." The CD was chosen as one of the best albums of 2005 at the CHUOFM89 radio jazz station in Canada.
In 2006 Asaf started a unique collaboration with saxophonist/composer Tim Garland and has enjoyed making four album with him so far: If The Sea Replied (The Lighthouse Trio), Due North (Northern Underground Orchestra), The Mystery (featuring Chick Corea and the Northern Sinfonia Orchestra), and Libra (The Lighthouse Trio).
With the Inner Noise band Asaf had made two more albums, We Are Falling (Konnex, 2005) and The Song Within (SAM Productions/Egea, 2007), which was selected as one of the best albums of 2007 at the All About Jazz website by John Kelman.
In 2007, continuing with writing music Asaf formed the Asaf Sirkis trio with Greek guitarist Tassos Spiliotopoulos and Israeli bassist Yaron Stavi. This trio has recorded their first album The Monk (SAM Productions/Egea, 2008).
Asaf is also working regularly with the Larry Coryell's "Power Trio" (featuring Coryell on guitar and Jeff Berlin on bass), Nicolas Meier Group, a group that combines jazz with Middle Eastern music (albums available: Ribbon In The Wind, Orient, Yuz and Silence Talks), and with John Law's Art Of Sound trio as well as working with other artists such as: Mark Egan, Dave Liebman, David Binney, Gary Husband, John Taylor, Norma Winstone, Kenny Wheeler, Andy Sheppard, Lenny Stern, Paul Bollenback (NY), Julian Siegel, Dan Stern, Peter King, Stan Sulzman, Barbaros Erkose (Turkey), Ari Brown (Chicago), Bela Szakcsi-Lokatos (Hungary), Glauco Venier (Italy), Yuri Goloubev (Russia), Klaus Gesing (Austria), Christoph Spendel (Germany), Eyal Maoz (NY), Carlos Barretto (Portugal), Simon Fisher Turner, Phil Robson, Arnie Somogyi, Martin Speake, Mark Latimer, Reem Kelani, Christine Tobin, Nicolas Meier, Tom Arthurs, John Etheridge and more.
Teachers and/or influences? Allan Holdsworth, Olivier Messiaen, Maurice Durufle, Bach, Gary Husband, Tony Williams, Larry Coryell, Jeff Berlin, Jack DeJohnette, South Indian Thavil drumming, music from Yemen, Franky Dunlop, Billy Cobham, Tony Parsons, Krishnamurti, John Scofield, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Sun Ra, Robert Wyatt, Yes, Weather Report, and life itself.
I knew I wanted to be a musician when... I was 10 years old
Your sound and approach to music: Music is spirit and spirit is everything
Your teaching approach: I work with different meditation techniques that intensify practicing and playing so that the student can get more from his/her practice and work plus not overwork their body and avoid stiffness, pains, etc..
Improvising and mastering rhythm are both essential in my teaching, they are powerful tools for individual expression on the drum set.
Your dream band:
I guess my wish would be to work more with my bands playing my own music everywhere in the world.
Dream band: Tony Williams: drums; Allan Holdsworth: guitar; Jaco Pastorius: bass.
Colchester Arts Centre: Brilliant acoustics, best sound engineer ever, nice staff and not to far from home plus I can visit my girlfriend.
Your favorite recording in your discography and why? The Monk, I guess because it represent what I'm trying to do at the moment. Gary Husband's contribution to the album makes it special for me too.
The Song Within is great documentation of the Inner Noise band, best recording we've done so far, happy about the writing too.
One Step Closer, my first album. There is always something special about that kind of thing even though it might not be the most mature piece of work, considering the fact that I recorded it when I was 26.
The first Jazz album I bought was: Allan Holdsworth, Road Games.
What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically? I would like to think that my music can uplift the spirits of people and inspire them.
Did you know...
I'm dyslexic :)
CDs you are listening to now: South Indian Music, mainly Thavil and Nadaswaram.
Desert Island picks:
Allan Holdsworth, Then;
Olivier Messiaen, Livre du Saint Sacrament;
Tony Williams, Emergency; ; Mahavishnu Orchestra; Birds Of Fire;
Jennifer Bate, Jennifer Bate.
How would you describe the state of jazz today?
Jazz is just a word. I feel that what you might call jazz is becoming more and more like classical music these days. It's more accurate, technical and intricate, but less expressive and not as free.
On the other hand the ever growing technology facilitate musicians these days to merge easily between different cultures and traditions in music. It's a wonderful melt pot.
And there is the industry of course, artists are becoming more independent and the "industry" namely, the middle man between the musician and his/her audience is being reduced. I think this will eventually have a strong impact on the way the music sound too.
What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?
Jazz needs more exposure; TV, radio, internet, etc.
What is in the near future?
I am working on getting my new trio on the road as much as possible and starting to write some new music.
I'm also touring a lot this year with Tim Garland Lighthouse trio featuring myself, Tim Garland on horns and Gwilym Simcock on pianoa great band
Trying to get gigs for my band.
If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a: