Monday, May 18, 2020

Awaiting "Our New World" the Sirkis/Bialas I Q

Sirkis/Bialas IQ: Our New World Moonjune MJR099

The Sirkis/Bialas I Q (International Quartet) is an impressive, global-based group, employing expressive creativity, virtuosity, and international folk-music influences to infuse their music making it authentic and visceral. 

On their latest Our New Earth, the leader and composer, Israeli percussionist Asaf Sirkis employs a variety of instrumentation (Crotales, Manjira and a Frame drum) and rhythmic vocal techniques including Konnakol (a southern Indian vocalized percussion technique.) to bring in a Middle Eastern and Southern Indian taste to his music.

Asaf Sirkis and Sywia Bialas

The co-leader, Polish vocalist Sylwia Bialas, wrote five of the compositions here and has a beautiful vocal instrument that she controls with skilled aplomb and elastic pliability. She has an impressive range and a well-developed sense of timing, dynamics, and presence.

British keyboard player Frank Harrison attended Berklee on scholarship and demonstrates his accomplished ability as an inventive soloist as well as an intuitively strong accompaniest.

Bassist Kevin Glasgow is an impressive six-string electric bassist who can anchor complex rhythms and is especially expressive in the upper register with his fluid lines that are very guitar-like.

This two-disc offering is stylistically packaged and displays beautiful cover artwork. Produced by Leonardo Pavkovic's progressive Moonjune records, the cd is musically teeming with creativity and optimism. There is an unabashed romantic hopefulness to this album and as Sirkis has explained they wanted “ …to reflect the change and turmoil that are happening globally right now…” and to use their music to “…express the wish that when all the madness subsides we will have a better place to live in…”Our New Earth.”

The original compositions are more like musical excursions where these four gifted musicians paint a hopeful horizon employing gorgeous sonic colors and simpatico interaction. The music swirls, elevating and mystifying the listener, utilizing deft orchestrations, beguiling vocalizations, and draws on a wellspring of rhythmic variations of international flavor.

There are classical, sometimes chamber-jazz elements to this music, albeit string-less. Harrison’s splendid pianistic creations are captivating and Bialas’ acrobatic vocalizations trace melodic lines precisely. Glasgow’s bass work also adds a burnished timbre and a fleet facility that compliments the songs with another component of interest.  Bialas sings predominantly in Polish, evoking a pure and transcendental quality to her voice. Undoubtedly Eastern European in lineage, her vocalizations to me, nonetheless evoke how Brazilian Flora Purim vocalized her work with Chick Corea back in the early seventies. Sirkis is an accomplished fusion drummer who can be bombastic, here he restrains himself, creating more subtle rhythms and provides a floating backdrop that accents the music beautifully with taste and sonic variety. 

Bialas’ high-pitched yipping on the opening of her “Rooting” from “The Earth Suite” has an almost primitive, indigenous-like feel both intriguing and skillful. Sirkis’ uses rythmic-driven vocalization-Konnakol, over his droll-like use of the Manjira on “Our New Earth,” and in conjunction with Bialas captures the essence of a southern Indian meditation-like music.

The album is like a suite and deserves being heard as a unified concept. The music includes Sirkis’ “Land of Oblivion,” with lyrics by Bialas “Letter to A.,”      "Our New World,” “The Message from the Blue Bird,” "The Spooky Action at A Distance” and “Picture from a Polish Wood.” Bialas’ compositions included the aforementioned “Rooting,” “If Pegasus Had One Wing,” “Reminiscence, ”Chiaroscuro, and ”Nocturnity.”  

There is much to hear, to savor,and to enjoy on Our New Earth so pick this one up and enjoy the possibilities.

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