Monday, 17 December 2012


Philadelphia native Norman Connors began his drumming career in middle school when he subbed for Elvin Jones and sat in with John Coltrane.  No doubt this singular event gave him the accreditations to record with Coltrane's Impulse label mates Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp.  

His first recording is on Shepp's The Magic of Ju-Ju, where Connors' drumming, as well as that of the other four percussionists, is superb.  Shepp's sax playing is too far out there for my tastes but I've been tempted to buy the album, regardless, just for the psychedelic macumba cover art.

If you want a Connors album of that era, that's afrocentric but not beyond the avant-garde, listen to Kenny Gill's What Was, What Is, What Will Be.  (Unlike Sanders or Shepp, Gill appears to be a relative unknown.  What Was is the only album I could find under his own name).

As with most artists, Connors' talents are best realized when he's at the controls.  His own albums from the 70s strike the harmonious balance between serious jazz, soul and popular musical sensibilities - a formula that fails in so many other, pedestrian hands.  It certainly doesn't hurt matters that he solicited the accomplished help of Herbie Hancock, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gary BartzHubert Laws and Jean Carn.  

In addition to his jazz compositions, Connors is responsible for some exceptional disco leading The Starship Orchestra, as well as for several charted RnB and pop singles.  He slowed production in the mid 80s and surfaced again most recently in 2001 to release an unassertive collection of elevator jazz.


Kenny Gill - "Valley of All Brothers," What Was, What Is, What Will Be, Warner, 1971.

"Blue," Dance of Magic, Cobblestone, 1972

Discogs: Dance of Magic

"Love From the Sun," Love From the Sun, Buddah Records, 1974

The Starship Orchestra - "You're a Star," Celestial Sky, CBS, 1980

Discogs: Celestial Sky

"I Don't Need Nobody Else," Take It to the Limit, Arista, 1980

Here's a redux of "I Don't Need Nobody Else" by the masterbuilder of soulful Detroit techno, Theo Parrish.

Theo Parrish, "The Rink," Sound Sculptures Volume 1, Sound Signature, 2007.

Discogs: Sound Sculptures Volume 1

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