Norman Connors

Norman Connors

    For Norman Connors music was a matter of destiny, not choice.  It is this kismet that allowed the multi-faceted and dynamic musician at the tender age of 16 to perform alongside legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and travel to NY with nothing but his drum sticks and $20 in his pocket, only to end up landing a full scholarship to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. Destined to leave his indelible imprint on the music scene, Norman Connors would go on to discover such revered vocalists as Phyllis Hyman, Angela Bofill, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jean Carne, produce a track for the iconic Stevie Wonder and create one of R&B's greatest ‘Quiet Storm' anthems with Michael Henderson's, "You Are My Starship." This 1976 chart-topping single, that has been sampled by everyone from LL Cool J to Snoop Dogg, went on to spawn an entire genre of music fusing the worlds of jazz and R&B. Never one to sit still, Norman Connors is at it again with a new project that is destined to further endear him to critics and fans alike as one of music's greatest treasures.  

    2009's Star Power, the multi platinum-selling producer's Shanachie debut and first recording in seven years, was a momentous occasion that joined Connors with some of his dear friends and some new ones including vocalists Peabo Bryson, Howard Hewett and Christopher Williams, bassist (and vocalist) Michael Henderson, saxophonist Marion Meadows, keyboardists Herman Jackson and Bobby Lyle and guitarists Ray Parker Jr., Norman Brown and Paul Jackson, Jr.  among others.

    "Throughout my career, there have been certain singers that I have always wanted to work with and on this new project I get to do just that," Connors relates.  His affinity for singers goes back to his youth.  "I used to take my drum lessons on Saturday and there was a theatre called the Earle Theatre in Philly. They used to show a Tarzan movie and after the movie they would have people like Duke Ellington and Count Basie perform and I would make sure to be there, right in the front row. I was like a kid in a toy shop. Right after the band played the singer would come out in a gown. Hearing people like Sarah and Ella at a young age made me fall in love with great voices."

    Born in the City of Brotherly Love, Norman Connors has the luxury of being immersed in the City's rich jazz and R&B tradition. When he first started out, his dream was to be John Coltrane's drummer. As fate would have it he performed with Trane at the famed Peps in Philly one night when Elvin Jones got arrested. Connors ended up playing three nights in a row!  Connors' early jazz aspirations did not keep him from following many of the great R&B groups of the day. "I have always loved the Delfonics andStylistics," says Norman . "Deep down inside I always wanted to be a Delfonic. When we used to play jazz gigs at places like the Sugar Shack in Boston and I had a 25-minute break, I would go check out the Delfonics who might be up the block performing.  I always told myself that if I ever got a record deal I was going to include some of this great R&B tradition in my music. My early albums were more fusion but as I got into my fourth and fifth albums I started bringing in that R&B element."

    Norman Connors illustrious resume includes work with saxophonists Pharoah Sanders, Jackie McLean, Archie Shepp and Sam Rivers and organist Jack McDuff along with a list of other jazz luminaries. He has also produced for everyone from Angela Bofill, Phyllis Hyman, Peabo Byrson and Howard Hewett to Lonnie Liston Smith and Bobby Lyle.  Connors signed with Buddah's Cobblestone record label in 1972 and recorded a string of critically acclaimed albums that reached multi-platinum selling status.  Among Connors recordings during this period are Dance of Magic, which featured the all-star lineup of Herbie Hancock (who appears on Norman 's first five albums), Stanley Clarke, Ron Carter, Hubert Laws, Gary Bartz, Carlos Garnett and Dee Dee Bridgewater.  Connors also made the recordings Dark of Light, Love from the Sun, Slewfoot and Saturday Night Special, featuring the number 10 soul hit "Valentine Love." In 1976 Connors struck gold with the hit "You Are My Starship," from the album of the same title, which also included the chart-topping Thom Bell and Linda Creed classic "Betcha By Golly Wow" featuring Phyllis Hyman. In the late 70s Connors was courted by Clive Davis who signed him to Arista Records. His debut for the label, This Is Your Life made a splash with the title track.

    He also enjoyed success with his album Invitation, which featured his celebrated Starship Orchestra that included Bobby Lyle, Onaje Allan Gumbs, Marion Meadows and Jean Carne among others.  He recorded four albums for Aritsta before signing with Capitol in the late 80s and then Motown's jazz label, Mojazz, in the 90s.

    Biography courtesy of Shanachie Records

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