BILL CONNORS - Return to Forever - JAZZ FUSION GUITAR legend - " aka Eclectic Earwig Reviews Music and More for You!"
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Bill Connors: Assembler (CD, 38:22); 1994 Evidence ECD 22095-2

Jazz fusion guitar fans will recognize Connors as that blazingly explosive and technically precise legato guitarist in Return to Forever who left after one release to pursue a quieter acoustic guitar path. Connors has always been ranked in the upper echelons of fine fusion axe-men. Yet the guitar releases from Connors have come slowly, been severely under-appreciated, and after this release -- it seems no more solo works are ever forthcoming. Let's hope I am wrong. After leaving Return to Forever, Connors released three excellent acoustic albums in the '70s, did some work with Stanley Clarke on Clarke's solo releases, and played with the Jan Garbarek Group. Connors then returned to releasing hard-hitting yet elegantly soulful electric fusion guitar albums in the '80s. They were shorter length, LP time-length format, offering sonic snippets of Connors' electric visions. Comparisons can be made easily between this release's guitar stylings to that of Allan Holdsworth's technique. This is not surprising as Holdsworth has always sought that horn sound and flow of John Coltrane and Connors too idolizes Coltrane. Convergent evolution perhaps? Connors has more of a rocking and visceral edgy attack than Holdsworth. His legato phrasing is totally different as well as his guitar voicings. Connors will also lean funky, syncopated, and have more of a groove going on in his compositions. Connors demonstrates he is a guitarists' guitarist with evident passion for his instrument. In conversation with Connors' brother I was told that Bill was always practicing for hours upon hours. It shows clearly on this release. Assembler marked the final electrified release of this triune fusion CD offering of the '80s. Assembler saw an initial 1987 release on Pathfinder and then this 1994 re-release on the Evidence label.

~ John W. Patterson,

Personnel: Connors, Bill/guitar Kennedy, Tom/bass Plainfield, Kim/drums

Tracks: 1. Crunchy~3:29~Connors 2. Sea Coy~5:39~Connors 3. Get It to Go~5:10~Connors 4. Assembler~5:07~Connors 5. Add Eleven~6:12~Connors 6. Tell It to the Boss~7:02~Connors 7. It Be FM~5:39~Connors 

Bill Connors: Theme to the Gaurdian (CD, 41:02); 1975 ECM ECM 1057

The blazingly explosive and technically precise legato guitarist in Return to Forever left after one release with RTF to pursue a solo and much quieter, acoustic guitar path. This is the first in a trio of acoustic guitar releases Connors put out in the '70s on the famous ECM label. It is first off odd to me that nearly thirty years after this release came out, I noticed that the title to this release has the word guardian spelled incorrectly! I thought that was odd until I learned that ECM argued with Connors to change it but he demanded it remain spelled that way as he believed ECM was in error. When in doubt read the manual a.k.a. the dictionary. All that said, this release of Connors is truly excellent acoustic guitar work with some of the most unique compositions and playing style you will find anywhere. Connors dubs one track as a sort of complex and exotic chordal progression base structure of strummed rhythms and/or a tapestry of finger roll picking. Over this landscape of dreamy, moody, surreal or frenetic design Connors solos and augments the original track of his playing. The effect is a ghostly dance of melancholy angst and passionate wailings. If any one album deeply altered and effected my own acoustic guitar playing it has to be this release. It is a pristine and well-engineered creation. At times one guitar is subtly processed by ECM engineers to add a very unusual timbre to the piece and sometimes not. All in all I'd have to say the shock of hearing Connors' all acoustic solo album after his pyrotechnics with Return to Forever slowly faded when guitarists and fans finally heard the genius echoing within each song.

~ John W. Patterson,

Personnel: Connors, Bill/Guitar/Composer Cronkhite, Glenn/Composer "Sea Song"

Tracks: 1. Theme to the Gaurdian~5:20~Connors 2. Childs Eyes~4:26~Connors 3. Song for a Crow~4:16~Connors 4. Sad Hero~4:30~Connors 5. Sea Song~5:06~Cronkhite 6. Frantic Desire~2:56~Connors 7. Folk Song~6:37~Connors 8. My Favorite Fantasy~4:26~Connors 9. The Highest Mountain~3:25~Connors 

Bill Connors Return 2005

This is a fusion addict, fusion promoter, a long-time Bill Connors fan and a musician/reviewer speaking now. As a fusion addict this newest "return" release absolutely bummed me out. Connors' edgy and emotive fusion-fired axe work in the 70s and 80s was marvelous, blistering and a raw, well-honed treasure to hear. That legato work of the 80s was Holdswothian in ways true -- but still Connors styled. But this new release is NOTHING like I expected. It reminded me of his clearly toned-down work on Plainfield's recent solo outing. Folks, beside the redo of an older tune of his from the 80s -- Connors is offering pure jazz guitar, basic quality jazz, yes, smoothly played and smoothly dealt. He built his amp, plugged in his guitar with no effects and explored the sonorities of the instrument in its purest sense -- OKAY fine. I realize a musician can do EXACTLY what they want and answer any type muse they hear inside and screw the critics -- right? So ignore the fusion fanatics and chops-heads -- fair enuff? I guess so. After listening to this CD of Connors several times -- it is a complete departure with NO return to anything Connors is well-loved and remembered for. He should have named this release: The Departure or Purity or New Directions but this is no Return to anything expected by Connors old-line fanbase. I suppose it is fairly a return to recording which we all applaud him for doing but fusion fans need look elsewhere for "the burn" -- it ain't happening on the "Return". Why do so many olde rockers and early-days fusion heroes choose to lose that crunch, lose that fiery delivery as the grey hairs or no hairs come along? I will be 50 this April and trust me on this -- though I dig all kinds of musicks, ambient to frenetic -- when it's time to crank it, I do and I will love every minute of it. Pull out the pedals, up the overdrive, boost the signal and break a string for me you wild riffers out there! I will always find an ineffable magic in a powerful performance. My neurons need that "Dense Dance" to rekindle the whirling dervish release and natural endorphins rush. Smooth limp-wristed jazz has, does, and will always make me hit "Skip Track", "Eject" or "Seek" as its very fibre consists of "safe" and "commercially viable".

~ John W. Patterson, Editor 






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