A Crash, a Sigh and A Groove – Debut EP “Awareness” from Joe Sturges

Joe Sturges CD cover

Joe Sturges thinks of his drums as more than a rhythm machine. In fact he celebrates its melodic capabilities, an idea which is a revelation for many casual jazz listeners. With his brand-spanking new debut on the EP called “Awareness” he boldly demonstrates the different dimensions of the drums while also creating a warm, inviting atmosphere. The title track “Awareness”  – named for “being present and living for the now” – shows Sturges’s delicacy and amazing tonal range on percussion, while “Summer” is pastel-hued perfection (bravo, keys, and kudos for the lusciousness on trumpet). “Near a Cherry Tree” shoots off a high-spun energy that gives way to the melody served up by the sizzling sax and beautiful coloration coming from piano. Soon, a heavy, tense crescendo elbows its way through, but the idea exhausts itself and lands softly.

If these are different aspects of Sturges’s “now” then it’s unquestionably a place of solace for all of us.

How do you convey emotion with drums, and in this CD, where do you feel it was an important voice?

I feel drums are very underrated in terms of the melodic possibilities it can bring. It’s a beautiful instrument, and apart from the obvious rhythmic qualities that everyone is drawn to, it´s an instrument in itself built from a lot of instruments (toms, snare, bass drum, cymbals). So if you take into account the possibilities that playing with a melodic mindset can bring, focusing not only on the phrasing and rhythms, but on the choice and orchestration of the notes in relation to a composition, it adds another beautiful quality to the instrument. 

I feel it was a very important choice for me to play always in relation to the melody, the harmony, and the overall sound and attitude of the composition, running away from trying to play fast complex rhythms or any other aspect that really doesn’t relate to the composition as a whole. 

What inspires you when you compose for films and games – is it different than writing music for live performances or for a CD?

Very different, for me at least. When writing an album or stand-alone compositions I relate the meaning of the song to my experiences and thoughts, where on the other hand when writing for movies or games you have a set story to relate everything to, with its characters, places, and story arc. It’s just writing with another mindset.

Which drummers are you influenced by and why?

I get very inspired by Mark Guiliana, Nate Smith, Steve Jordan, or Ian Chang. I look up to all of them, as I think they are visionaries in the instrument, and are taking it to unexplored places.

What was the biggest challenge in bringing this CD to life?

Knowing when to let go of the compositions. It’s very easy to try to make things more complex, more busy, more more more… Most of the time, I would get a pretty strong gut feeling when I thought the piece was done, and it was a learning curve for to always listen to that feeling.

How does the title express where you’re going with this music?

I feel that we reminisce too much on past moments, or focus on the future. It’s important to stay aware of the now, and how crucial it is to enjoy it.

Which track was the most fun to produce?

“Awareness” for sure. It was the most simple one, and the track with less notes on it, while being the one that meant the most. It was very inspiring letting that song in particular be as driven by the moment as possible, and I think the result was beautiful, and everyone playing in it felt it was the right take instantly. On the second take we had it, and I let it go right there.

How would you describe the experience of creating and then releasing this CD which is your debut?

Very humbling. Before writing, rehearsing, and recording everything, the concept of releasing my own music felt very distant and a bit crazy. Looking back at it, I feel honored to have had the musicians and team I´ve had behind “Awareness” and it inspires me to keep creating more.

For more information, visit www.joesturgesmusic.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of Joe Sturges.
© Debbie Burke 2020

All About Jazz Orthmann review 4

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