In my capacity as a reviewer with Jazzreview, my ears have been treated to some of the most diverse and often impressive music and use of instruments in the world. I’ve heard the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument), steel pans played in unconventional fashion, rap music interwoven into both contemporary and traditional jazz, and a whole host of other bits of extraordinary sound combinations and manipulation. Now comes the use of the church organ as one of the centerpieces of a group’s identity.
Asaf Sirkis & The Inner Noise is an avant garde group of musicians founded by drummer Asaf Sirkis. This is the third release for this particular group and fourth for Sirkis initially (he recorded his first, One Step Closer, as the Asaf Sirkis Trio). I’m not certain about the styles of the earlier productions, but The Song Within is, well, interesting.
The Song Within opens with the title track that is, while artistic and revealing, not terribly melodic or rhythmic. As an opening track, I think I would have chosen a better "kick-starter" or mood-setter. The tune seems a bit too self-absorbed and, in my opinion, doesn’t really reach out to anyone other than the musicians playing it. Many of the selections have this same shortcoming.
The lead guitar has as much a voice in The Song Within as the organ, though neither ever really hits the spot for me as shaping the rather elusive compositions. Can these guys play? Absolutely. Maybe so well that they lost sight of "connecting" with their audience and just focused on the approvals and vibes of each other.
Personally, I think the church organ was a bit overbearing and out of place. Had the same tunes been played using a Hammond, perhaps.... well, perhaps. The project is touted as combining modern jazz with progressive rock, and I do hear whispers of the rock group Yes, which often played with the nuances of jazz improv and often featured the sometimes heavy-handedness of Rick Wakeman’s organ. While I mostly enjoyed and admired Yes, their journey into this type of hybrid also often left me wanting.
This is not to say that Sirkis & Co. don’t come bearing some hint of their aptitude. For example, Sirkis was once a regular band member with Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble. The group won much recognition and the BBC "Best CD of the Year" jazz award in 2003 for their Exile album. Also, aside from being able professionals, I did find track 5, "Miniature," somewhat memorable. In that slow-paced tune, there is presence and melody, the guitar is well-voiced, and the organ is less overbearing by a mile.
I do hope to hear the upcoming album, due for release in 2008. Perhaps the group will extract something from that 2003 award-winning release to better match its composing/producing identity with its competent playing abilities.