ALBUM REVIEWS

DARYL STUERMER 

ALBUM RATING SYSTEM

*****

An excellent album. Strong effort from beginning to end! A must own!

****

A very good album. A few low points but, overall, a decent effort. Recommended. 

***

A good album. Several weak points detract from the album, but it's still worth owning.

**

A mediocre album. Unless you're a real fan, you might not like this album very much.

*

A poor album. Stay away from this one unless you are a hardcore fan!
Daryl Stuermer - Another Side of Genesis (2000)

WOG RATING: ***

On the heels of Steve Hackett's tribute to Genesis comes Daryl's homage to the band. Like Hackett's album, Stuermer's Another Side of Genesis focuses strictly on the years he was affiliated with the band, 1978-1992, but that is where the comparison ends. Stuermer's album reworks the music of Genesis in varying shades of instrumental jazz ranging from contemporary 'smooth jazz' to Latin jazz to acid jazz to rock-laden jazz fusion and beyond! Surprisingly, Stuermer keeps his arrangements fairly true to the original compositions. Where the album gets its character, however, is from not only the new arrangements but in the diversity of Stuermer's seamless blend of all these musical styles. 
 

One of the interesting aspects of Another Side of Genesis is that seems to gain momentum at several points as the album progresses starting with mellow tunes and working up to songs like "Land of Confusion" or "Turn It On Again," the latter of which, in my opinion, is one of the best jazz interpretations on the album.  The album showcases Stuermer's guitar playing in a way that we, the listener, would never have heard while he was on the road with Genesis. Here, we see Daryl's versatility as he sounds just as comfortable with acoustic guitar as with electric guitar. Another Side of Genesis is a great introduction for the Genesis fan who is interested in checking out Daryl's solo efforts for the first time or for the jazz enthusiast who simply wants to hear what a great jazz guitarist can do with finely crafted pop songs.

 

Daryl Stuermer - Waiting In The Wings (2001)

WOG RATING: ***

Waiting In The Wings is, without question, one of Stuermer's brightest moments as a jazz solo artist.  His first two solo albums (Steppin' Out and Live & Learn), which both have strong moments, pale in comparison to the cohesion on this project. Not only does Stuermer have a solid band in place with the likes of bassist Eric Hervey, drummer John Calarco, and pianist Kostia, but he delivers a release that succeeds in providing a fantastic 'live in the studio' feel. The album also features special guest Luis Conte, a noted jazz percussionist from Phil Collins solo touring band. 
 

Among the stand-outs on the album are the title track, "Wherever You Are", "Deja Blue", "Copenhagen" and "Transatlantic." Once again, Stuermer shows his masterful chops as one of jazz's premier guitarists with a solid set of ten well-honed tracks of rock fusion influenced smooth jazz. Musicianship aside, Waiting In The Wings probably stands out most among Stuermer's catalog, because it strays, ever so slightly, from the smooth jazz grooves that became incredibly popular in the late '80s and throughout the '90s in exchange for elements of '70s era jazz, with that great fusion-esque sound that almost reminds me at times of some of his guitar playing with Jean Luc-Ponty or George Duke. It is a style I hope Stuermer continues to reminisce further in the future.

 

Daryl Stuermer - Retrofit (2004)

WOG RATING: ****

Retrofit is a refreshing change from other Stuermer albums. Yes, the album still has a predominant smooth jazz backbone, but there is a definite return to his '70s jazz fusion roots on this record - more so than ever before. The end result is a hybrid "smooth fusion" album with a little more pizzazz and kick than we've heard from Daryl in a while, and a seemingly logical progression from his last solo album, Waiting In The Wings. Stuermer continues to use the same musicians from his last outing, and the cohesion remains a constant throughout the nine tracks that comprise Retrofit. Among the stand-out tracks on the album are the title cut; "Zanzibar," which really showcases Daryl on acoustic guitar; "Midnight Traveler" and a great jazz instrumental version of "The Least You Can Do" which was co-written with Phil Collins (an alternate pop version with vocals appears on Collins' Testify album). Despite one or two songs which are heavily (or should I say overly) saturated with smooth jazz, this album is a solid offering from beginning to end. I hope that Stuermer continues to travel even further down the path of jazz fusion in the future and, someday, abandons the smooth jazz arena completely. This album leaves me eager to hear where Daryl will go next! 

 

Daryl Stuermer - The Nylon String Sampler (2005)

WOG RATING: ****

The Nylon String Sampler is a compilation of acoustic tracks from Stuermer's solo efforts from 1998's Live and Learn through his 2004 Retrofit album. Among the eleven tracks that comprise this set, four of them come from the Retrofit album including personal favorites like "Midnight Traveler" and "Zanzibar." For those who have heard Stuermer's records, you won't find the heavy influence of tracks from Retrofit surprising since it is by far his best solo album to date. Also included are two tracks from Waiting In The Wings, three tracks from Another Side of Genesis and two from Stuermer's Live and Learn album. Perhaps not surprisingly, his solo debut, Steppin' Out, is neglected completely, most likely due to fact that it was on GRP Records (Oh, pesky world of licensing!), and not Urban Island Records like the rest of Stuermer's projects. Despite this, the collection provides a thoughtful introduction to the novice Stuermer enthusiast spanning most of his arsenal of material recorded over the past six years. This album is the perfect starting point if you are curious about trying out Daryl's solo works. 

 

Daryl Stuermer - Rewired: The Electric Collection (2006)

WOG RATING: ****

Rewired: The Electric Collection, is in many ways, the bookend to 2005's The Nylon String Sampler. Culled from the Urban Island back catalog, Stuermer's latest collection highlights the electric side of his music including tracks from Retrofit, Waiting In The Wings, and Live and Learn. Much like The Nylon String Sampler, this album is a great place to start if you are unfamiliar with Stuermer's solo work.  Excluded in this compilation are any songs from Another Side of Genesis and Steppin' Out (the latter of which is clearly omitted for the reasons spelled out above). 

 

Daryl Stuermer - Go (2007)

WOG RATING: ****

With few exceptions, Daryl Stuermer has largely become synonymous with mellow smooth jazz guitar rather than the sort of rock based jazz fusion guitar work that fans might have expected after seeing him play live at a Genesis gig. Of course, Rewired: The Electric Collection culled together moments that deviated from the smooth jazz genre, but being labeled as a smooth jazz musician would have been a very fair assessment, at least since his sophomore solo album, Live and Learn.  While there have been obvious indicators that Stuermer was slowly moving back toward a more rock-based style of guitar playing (in my opinion, dating back to 2001's Waiting in The Wings), I can say without hesitation that is this truly the Daryl Stuermer album I have waited for since his 1988 rock influenced solo debut, Steppin' Out. Daryl's relentlessly firey guitar riffs soar through an almost progressively peppered rock 'n roll fusion hybrid from beginning to end. Without any question, as a whole, this is one of Stuermer's best instrumental albums to date and one that Genesis fans will easily embrace. Go, buy it!


OTHER ALBUMS FEATURING DARYL STUERMER:

Sweetbottom - Live: The Reunion (2003)

WOG RATING: **

In the 1970s, guitarist Daryl Stuermer was a member of Sweetbottom, a 5-piece jazz fusion band that regularly toured the mid-western United States. Almost thirty years later, the band has reformed with original members Stuermer, brother Duane Stuermer on bass, Warren Wiegratz on sax, and Mike Murphy on drums, along with new addition Kostia on keyboards. This album, Live: The Reunion, captures the reunited group live from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in December 2002 revisiting the songs and arrangements from their past with a few, more modern influences for good measure. The album features predominantly Sweetbottom penned tunes, and while the album is clearly fusion-based, it is heavily perforated with a strong smooth jazz influence. Surprisingly, only one track on the album shares a co-writing credit with Daryl Stuermer. Personally, I was expecting a little less in the way of smooth jazz on this release since it was revisiting the set list from a band that has remained dormant since the '70s, but all 8-tracks are consistently piquant with unyielding musicianship. It will be interesting to see if Sweetbottom records any new material together and how the style of that new album might differ from this release. Hopefully such a release will shed some of the dominant smooth jazz influence that almost detracts a bit from an otherwise good jazz album. 
 

** More Daryl Stuermer reviews coming soon. **

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