The peril of being a musical gun-for-hire is that it becomes difficult to know exactly who the artist really is. It becomes even more challenging when an artist like guitarist Daryl Stuermer works in seemingly disparate styles. Stuermer first emerged on the 1970s fusion scene, working with violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and keyboardist George Duke. But he quickly became the guitarist of choice for progressive-turned-pop group Genesis through to its 1992 demise, and has remained a member of drummer/singer Phil Collins' touring band.
While Genesis' 2007 reunion tour might seem like the opportune time for Stuermer to release a new solo record, he's actually been releasing albums regularly since 1998, following the ten-year gap after his debut, Steppin' Out (GRP, 1988). Still, the tour won't hurt his visibility, and Go! has enough high energy playing to appeal to fusion fans while retaining the kind of catchy melodies and straight-ahead rock beats to draw in the large international pop audience who'll see him live during Genesis' five-month tour.
Accessible as it may be, this is no radio-friendly smooth jazz outing. Stuermer handles all guitar, keyboard and drum programming duties, with legendary Los Angeles session bassist Leland Sklar on six of Stuermer's ten original compositions. Sklar may be known for work with singer/songwriters including James Taylor and Lyle Lovett, but he's got fusion credentials of his own with the 1970s group The Section. Never obtrusive, Sklar works hand-in-glove with drummer John Calarco, driving the hard-rocking "Breaking Point, up-tempo funk workout "Striker and "Masala Mantra, which combines an Eastern-tinged melody with a taste of country that would fit comfortably on any record by The Hellecasters.
While Stuermer's primary language here is rock and his tone appropriately gritty throughout, traces of a more expansive jazz vernacular seep through, especially on the album's closing three tracks. "Meltdown is a furious workout that harkens back to the best of 1970s fusion, while the funkier "The Archer is no less impressive as he winds his way through a more complex set of changes. The closer, "Omnibus, demonstrates his ability to be blindingly virtuosic and thematically minded at the same time.
There may not be the irregular meters and extended blowing heard on most fusion recordsonly one track exceeds six minutes, with the majority well under fivebut Stuermer simply knows how to build shorter and, in many ways, more meaningful solos. There's something to be said for concision, and with Go! Stuermer delivers a record of ear-catching melodies, rocking grooves and dynamically charged playing that never overstays its welcome.
Personnel: Daryl Stuermer: guitar, keyboard and percussion programming; Kostia: keyboards; Leland Sklar: bass (1-5, 7); Eric Hervey: bass (6, 8, 9, 10); John Calarco: drums.