UK-based, Israeli-born drummer Asaf Sirkis has maintained his current trio, The Inner Noise, with church organist/keyboardist Steve Lodder and guitarist Mike Outram, since 2002. The Song Within is their third recording together.
Inspired in part by the organ music of composer Oliver Messiaen and Maurice Durufle, Sirkis' writing resonates with a rich spiritual lyricism that rises to levels of kinetic fury commonly embraced by fusion ensembles.
Drawing from classic jazz fusion innovators like guitarist Allan Holdsworth and Tony Williams' Lifetime, as well as progressive rock bands like Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer; The Inner Noise balances neo-classical subtlety with throttling intensity.
Organ trios have been a staple of the jazz tradition since the post-War years. Replacing the conventional Hammond organ with a church organ lends an unusual patina to the group's sound, erasing preconceived notions of blues, funk, gospel and soul. Rather, Sirkis writes unhurried, ascending chord progressions that borrow liberally from European classical forms, allowing elastic, rubato rhythms to support expansive, exploratory improvisations.
At their most reserved, the trio waxes bittersweet on the gorgeous "Miniature" and the haunting title track with euphonious delicacy. Conversely, "Nothingness First Part I, Nothingness" and "Hymn" are ablaze with raucous vigor, while "When You Ask Why" merges these disparate worlds, gradually increasing in intensity from supple acoustic meditation to roiling electric tempest.
Responsible for the majority of the session's most explosive statements, guitarist Mike Outram has been favorably compared to a restrained Allan Holdsworth. Tempering blistering fret-board histrionics with contemplative lyricism, his soaring, wah-wah fueled excursions transcend conventional virtuosity, transforming minor thematic variations into epic meditations.
Keyboardist Steve Lodder provides a rich harmonic foundation of overlapping, billowy chords with myriad linear interjections that veer from austere to angular. A magnanimous bandleader, Sirkis gives Lodder three unaccompanied solo compositions ("Nothingness First Part II, Love," "Theme for Gary" and "Sweet Song") to demonstrate his mastery of contrapuntal melody with grace and nuance.
The leader's effortless virtuosity reveals itself subtly. Free of conventional time-keeping duties courtesy of Lodder's unflagging support, Sirkis summons a whirlwind of percussive energy; his muscular, vacillating polyrhythms provide the trio with boundless momentum and endless rhythmic variety.
An impressive album, The Song Within features a unique trio at the top of their game in a field with few equals.
Personnel: Steve Lodder: church organ, keyboards; Mike Outram: electric and acoustic guitars; Asaf Sirkis: drums.