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Performing Arts

Stuermer changes the songs, but keeps the character

By KRISTYN ADAMS - Special to TimeOut

April 17, 2014


WAUKESHA - From playing trumpet in elementary school to bending the strings as lead guitarist for Genesis and Phil Collins, Daryl Stuermer of Milwaukee considers life in music an ongoing project of reinvention. Stuermer will bring his talent to the Schauer Arts and Activities Center in Hartford on April 26.

Alongside bassist Eric Hervey, drummer Alan Arber, keyboardist Konstantin Efimov and vocalist Woody Mankowski, Stuermer performs Genesis material with a jazz-fused interpretation.

“I started out in grade school band as a trumpet player but started guitar to follow the footsteps of my older brother (bass player Duane Stuermer),” Stuermer said. “I listened to groups like The Ventures, The Animals and The Rolling Stones. Then at 15, I got interested in jazz.

“It was something I didn’t understand, and though it seemed more difficult I realized I liked them both. Just a few years later, jazz fusion was the ticket.”

Rock ‘n’ roll fans may remember when Genesis topped the charts, but Stuermer recalled a pivotal moment behind the success. Frank Zappa heard Stuermer perform in Milwaukee with the band Sweetbottom in 1975, and introduced him to late keyboardist George Duke. A subsequent audition was arranged with jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, a solo artist with Atlantic Records who would include Stuermer on a tour.

“Life before Genesis was a great time in music, especially live music because in the 1970s you could play more nightclubs; mostly jazz, rock, with a (rhythm and blues) flavor,” he said. “It was a great time knowing great people. I was 21, playing nightclubs in Milwaukee. What an amazing time. It doesn’t seem as long ago as it really was.”

Stuermer said selections for the Hartford show will include releases from 1978-92.

Stuermer said one particular song should have hardcore Genesis fans smiling along.

“I really enjoy playing ‘Squonk,’” said Stuermer whose audition for Genesis required learning the song.

“Squonk” also was the first song sung by Phil Collins as Genesis lead vocalist post-Peter Gabriel and was produced on the “A Trick of the Tail” album in 1976. In 1977, George Duke recommended Stuermer as Genesis’ touring guitarist to replace Steve Hackett, but Stuermer is known for his work with Collins from the start of his solo career in the late 1980s.

Mankowski, of DePere, said Stuermer is a great guy to work for.

“It’s great to play with such a good band, too,” he said. A vocalist of 30 years, Mankowski is also a saxophone player who enjoys performing “Squonk” as a fun-to-sing tune, and favors “Your Own Special Way” for its beautiful, simple, love- song qualities.

“It’s hard to describe, but there’s that feeling you get after seeing a really great concert. The word ‘rush’ comes to mind - and it is close; I want everyone to have that feeling,” Mankowski said. The audience will find the music to be familiar, but the vocals will be played instrumentally, Stuermer said of the upcoming show. “Though we’re not Genesis, we’re bringing the music of Genesis into this era. People who know of the music will enjoy reliving it. With that in mind, I’ve been finding ways to change the songs, yet still keep their character.”

Many people expect imitation, he said, adding he’s seen Genesis tribute bands that play the songs note for note. That’s not how he played, he said.

“You have to know this is not the album - it’s a live performance,” Struemer said. “Each performance is of the moment. It’s one-of-a-kind, every time.”

People in their 20s tell him their parents turned them on to Genesis, Stuermer said. His two daughters “love classic rock.”

“My daughter (Kelly) was born on Phil Collins’ birthday - Jan. 30 in 1981. Kelly and my other daughter, Fiona, were kids who grew up knowing him as Uncle Phil.”

He said playing makes him feel younger. “When I’m playing, it feels like it always used to feel, only in the present,” he said. “Whether it is writing, recording, playing guitar, I love feeling like I’ve never worked in my life, and I plan to hold on to that because I don’t want to turn into a person who gives up.”