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  Norman Connors
 

 

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Click below for a Norman Connors  sample:

Valentine Love

  

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Like Roy Ayers and Donald Byrd before him, Norman Connors chose to pursue a commercial r&b career after initially performing solid spiritual jazz.  Connors was born and raised in Philadelphia and took to jazz at an early age, becoming proficient on drums by his teen years.  His work on some Pharoah Sanders LPs got him signed to Cobblestone in 1973, who issued his first solo LP later that year.  

Between 1973 and 1975 he worked in a very rewarding spiritual soul jazz style, frequently accompanied by players like Stanley Clarke and Gary Bartz. Starting with Saturday Night Special, the emphasis changed to jazzy soul.  To help him attain his new goals, he enlisted the services of singers Jean Carne and Michael Henderson, who sent "Valentine Love" up the charts in late '75.  People wanted to criticize Connors for abandoning jazz, but Connors still had at least one fusion tune per album, plus Carne and Henderson both had credible jazz roots; Carne as a singer with former husband Doug Carne on the Black Jazz label and Henderson played with Miles Davis before realizing he could carry a tune. They were just the first of a long line of Connors proteges that included Phyllis Human, Elanore Mills, Prince Phillip Mitchell, Adaritha, Glenn Jones and Spencer Harrison.

He mined this unique area for the rest of his career, notching up hits with "Once I've Been There," "Betcha By Golly Wow," "This Is Your Life" and "You Are My Starship."  "Starship" is hailed as one of the premier ballads of the 70s, and officially made Henderson a star; he was soon recording LPs under his own name. 

In the late 70s, he expanded his reach with Aquarian Dream, a more straighforward disco-funk-fusion group that had a couple of hits.  He moved to Arista, where he manged to get Pharoah Sanders signed to the label and continued to churn out high-quality soul.  His kept quiet for much of the 80s, but came back with Remember Who You Are on Motown, where he collaborated again with Phyllis Hyman.  

Norman Connors' Deepest Grooves

Dance of Magic (Cobblestone, 1973)

Love From the Sun (Buddah, 1973)
Produced by Skip Drinkwater and featuring a hard-hitting lineup of Dee Dee Bridgewater, Eddie Henderson, Herbie Hancock and Buster Williams. One of his essential jazz discs.

Slewfoot (Buddah, 1974)

Saturday Night Special (Buddah, 1975)

You Are My Starship (Buddah, 1976)

Romantic Journey (Buddah, 1977)
More r&b smoove, led by "Once I've Been There."  The jazz is represented by a cover of Pharoah Sanders' "Thembi."  Phyllis Hyman makes her recording debut on "Betcha By Golly Wow."

Best of Norman Connors and  Friends (Buddah, 1979)
Released to capitalize on Connors' name after he left Buddah, this captures the biggest r&b hits to this point.

Invitation (Arista, 1979)
The vocalist of choice here is Adaritha, highlighted on "Be There In the Morning."

Mr. C (Arista, 1981)
Introduces Glenn Jones as the latest protege.

Remember Who You Are (Motown, 1993)

Best of Norman Connors: Melancholy Fire (Razor and Tie, 1999)
As close to a definitive collection as you'll find.  Covers everything from "Valentine Love" to the late 80s comeback jam "I Am Your Melody."

Eternity (Right Stuff, 2000)

Copyright 2001 B.Graff.  All rights reserved.

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