Eyal Maoz & Asaf Sirkis - Elementary Dialogues

Rainlore's World of Music

Elementary Dialogues is Eyal Maoz & Asaf Sirkis' first duet album in eleven years and was released in 2009 on the French Ayler Records label as a digital release. Along with the album itself, full sleeves and labels in ready-to-print form are downloadable from Ayler Records. This surely is the way to go for digital downloads, so kudos to this enterprising label. However, "conventional" CDs are also available from the artists at gigs.

Guitar wizard Maoz has become a mainstay of the Downtown scene of New York where he is now based. As well as performing solo, he also leads several bands, with styles ranging from jazz, rock, free jazz, avant garde to acoustic Jewish and Balkan as well as world music. Sirkis since moving to the UK just over a decade ago has fast become an icon of the traps and probably the most in-demand drummer of recent times not only on the UK and European side of the pond but even in the US, being a regular of fusion guitar pioneer Larry Coryell's Power Trio. Apart from being a regular in more leading line-ups than one could conveniently shake a set of drum sticks at, Sirkis also leads his own Asaf Sirkis Trio and Asaf Sirkis And The Inner Noise organ trio.

Maoz and Sirkis have known each other since their childhood in Israel and have remained friends and occasional collaborators. Elementary Dialogues is their second joint album, the first having been Freedom Has Its Own Taste in 1998.

Elementary Dialogues is very much an "unplugged" album of two equals. To tie it or Maoz & Sirkis down to any particular style or genre would not only be unkind but serve little purpose. Essentially, Elementary Dialogues is just what the title says, taking short compositions as the starting point for mostly more or less free improvisational dialogues. Ten of these originals are by Maoz, while one, Miniature, is by Sirkis and started life on the The Song Within album with his Inner Noise trio.

Refreshingly free of pretense and ideological isms, Elementary Dialogues also manages to avoid any merest hint of post-modern deconstructivism. Sirkis and Maoz play with jazz fusion, prog-rock and free improvisation, with even a nod to a reggae beat and straightahead, yet they stay within their own sphere of improvisational dialogue freed from any strict rules or preconceptions. All the same, their music remains surprisingly accessible as well as fresh and enjoyable. Rather than playing with 'bright ideas', Maoz and Sirkis are entirely intuitive and inspirational in their dialogues. And thank goodness they are not out to prove anything either and never seem to take themselves too seriously, thus maintaining a sense of fun and surprise, even adventure, throughout.

Instead of leaving the listener behind, Maoz and Sirkis take the listener with them and the experience always remains a playful, even joyful one. The dialogues always remain comprehensible, and Elementary Dialogues is an album that is thoroughly cohesive as well as consistent. Essentially, think that what you are getting here is some incredible drum and guitar playing. But with his seemingly limitless palette, boundless imagination and invention as well as unparalleled subtlety and sensitivity, Sirkis transforms the trap set into so much more than just percussion.

Although it may not instantly appeal to more conservative listeners, I'd urge them to open their minds and give this album a good listen or two at least. Elementary Dialogues is a compelling album presenting a great variety of soundscapes and is always full of the unexpected and surprising. Even lyrical beauty finds a place here, particularly in Miniature.

Its invention and inventiveness, superlative playing, and great intimacy and immediacy further distinguish Eyal Maoz & Asaf Sirkis' Elementary Dialogues and surely make it essential in any good modern jazz and jazz guitar collection at the least. Thoroughly refreshing and enjoyable.