NORMAN CONNORS: The Very Best Of … (Label: Super Bird)

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NORMAN CONNORS: The Very Best Of ...

Back in the 70s Norman Connors became something of cult soul hero. The jazz drummer – who’d worked with people like Miles Davis and Pharaoh Sanders – cut a string of smooth soul albums for Buddah … all with an easy appeal, and for some reason, they seemed to tap into just what the period demanded. Indirectly those Connors’ albums also helped boost the careers of many he worked with – people like Michael Henderson, Jean Carn, Eleanore Mills and, of course, Phyllis Hyman. Over the years there’s been any number of Connors’ compilations and this new one offers another opportunity to hear what all the fuss was actually about. The LP begins with ‘Valentine Love’ from the 1975 ‘Saturday Night Special’ album and ends with ‘She’s Gone’ from ’82’s ‘Mr. C’ set. In between there’s a trio from ‘You Are My Starship’; three more from ‘Romantic Journey’ and ‘This Is Your Life’ apiece; ‘Kingston’ is taken from ‘Invitation’; and there’s a pair from ‘Take It To The Limit’. So – a comprehensive sweep and, as you’d expect, all the big tunes are there and stuff like ‘You Are My Starship’ and ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’ still standout. Other delights include the aforementioned ‘Valentine Love’, ‘Stella’ and a lovely reading of Jimmy Webb’s ‘This Is Your Life’. Listening now, it’s hard to credit that over 30 years ago this Connors’s sound was considered groundbreaking. Now, of course, we’re submerged in a morass of smooth jazz and even smoother soul but back in the day it was different… the Connors’ sound was quite unique and what made it unique and so much better than today’s smooth sounds was the calibre of the people he used to make his albums … I mean people like Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson, Hubert Eaves, Lee Ritenour, Noel Pointer et al … all, then, at the top of their games. Then, to reiterate, there’s those great vocalists we highlighted up top. Connors’ skill was to bring it all together.
(BB) 4/5