Inner Noise
Konnex KCD 5113

Ballsy enough to admit that one of his inspirations was the ProgRock of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, as well as more fashionable jazz and classical names, British-Israeli drummer Asaf Sirkis has come up with the sort of unselfconscious fusion CD that it seemed they didn’t make any more.

Of course part of INNER NOISE’s appeal is not only Sirkis’ multifarious and almost obsessively focussed percussion work, but the solos and underlying tonal continuum created by Steve Lodder manipulating the massive church organ. Recorded at London’s St. Michael’s the triple keyboard behemoth, with its resemblance to an early 20th century furnace, gives the nine Sirkis compositions the heft they would lack if a more conventional instrument like the electric organ or synthesizer was used.

Classically trained, Lodder has worked extensively with British saxophonist Andy Sheppard, toured with composer/keyboardist Carla Bely and was musical assistant to Paul McCartney on the ex-Beatle’s orchestral project. Sirkis, has been part of dissident Israel saxophonist Gilad Atzmon’s Orient House Ensemble and played with American fusioneers guitarist Larry Coryell and bassist Mark Eagan.

Mike Outram, the third trio members, is a professor of jazz guitar at Middlesex University. But on evidence here, it seems that academic background and music biz experience backing the likes of vocalist Jacqueline Dankworth has made his playing conventional, at least compared to the others’. “Floating”, a ballad that showcases his long-lined adoption of a clean Johnny Smith style, and “Desert Vision” are where he fares best. On the later, Lodder’s percolating organ ostinato that moves up to legato reverberation, and Sirkis’ flams, ruffs and bounces, give Outram the license to wiggle out bubbling single notes.

Everyone gets a workout on the “White Elephant” the final and, at more than 12 minutes, longest tune. Unfortunately this vast expanse of space encourage the most flamboyant tendencies of all three. Sirkis bears down anvil-like on his kit, expanding the backbeat so that it moves past a steady pulse to dominate, while Outram mutates and flanges notes to such a degree that his efforts seem to be heading for guitar hero heaven. Only the cultivated timbres from Lodder’s keyboards adhere to the standard. Far more palatable are pieces like “Three Ways”, whose relative brevity and slower tempo keep things in context — at least until the drummer and guitarist start to indulge themselves ponderously.

Overall, INNER NOISE posits that jazz-rock fusion can be a legitimate expression for 21st century players just as long as “lucidity”, which is also the title of track one, is paramount. But if the self-indulgence exhibited at certain points here gets out of hand — as it did for bands like Weather Report and Return to Forever — Inner Noise, the group, won’t presage a new appreciation for the form. Instead, to steal the final track tile, it will be seen as a white elephant that confirms fusion’s emptiness.

Over to you Sirkis.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Lucidity 2. Three Ways 3. Hope 4. Floating 5. Inner Noise 6. Desert Vision 7. The Only Way 8. Questions 9. White Elephant

Personnel: Mike Outram (guitar); Steve Lodder (church organ); Asaf Sirkis (drums)