At first the guitar licks might bring Pat Metheny to mind. Then the overall sound may give the impression of a Chick Corea ensemble. Both impressions would be wrongbut not entirely. It's Bill Connors, a veteran who has recorded or performed with many modern jazz legends, including Jack DeJohnette, Steve Khan, and Lee Konitz. He's even spent time with Return to Forever, Corea's pioneering 1970s fusion group, and Dave Weckl, who toured and recorded with Corea's Elektric and Acoustic bands of the late 1980s and early '90s. Their influence is clearly heard on Return.
While Connors is clearly in his own zone on the electric guitar, hints of Corea then and now can be heard on nearly every song, from the broken-time patterns of the piano and bass to the Weckl-esque drum play of Kim Plainfield. All songs are Connors originals except "Mr. Cool," "On the Edge" and "Mind Over Matter," which were penned by pianist Bill O'Connell; John Coltrane's "Brasilia"; and Plainfield's "McMinor."
It would be of little surprise if some listeners never get to the last seven tracks on the album. The first three are so good that it's tempting to just play them over and over. "On the Edge" is the one that has that Metheny/Corea feel to it, followed by the sizzling "Mr. Cool'" and "McMinor.'" The good news is if you lapse and forget to hit the back button in time, you'll be just as easily captivated by the quasi-frantic pace of "Mind Over Matter," which features Connors in a lead that is clearly his own but may bring to mind such jazz guitar legends as Wes Montgomery, Lee Ritenour and, of course, Metheny. Meanwhile, his sidemen are kicking it in a variety of gears, exploring their own paths while maintaining focus on the leaderclearly the way jazz was meant to be played. If you don't get past track four, it's understandable.
However, if you're disciplined enough to take your hand off the repeat button, more musical pleasures await you. There's the bluesy "Minor Matters,'" the broken-time "Try Tone Today" (an apparent tribute to "Doc Tone" Kenny Kirkland), the up-tempo "Terrabill Blues," the Corea-influenced "Nobody Yet To," "It Be FM," and the bossa nova closer, "Brasilia." In short, every song on this album deserves attention; they're all that good. The title, Return, is a subtle, if not intentional, reference to the band Connors played with in the '70s: Return to Forever. That group's influences are all over the place. Combined with Connors' personal touch, as well as those of his sidemen, it's a can't-miss combination.
On the Edge; Mr. Cool; McMinor; Mind Over Matter; Minor Matters; Try Tone Today; Terrabill Blues; Nobody Yet To; It Be FM; Brasilia
Bill Connors (guitar), Bill O'Connell (piano), Lincoln Goines (bass), Kim Plainfield (drums), Myra Casales (percussion)
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