May 19, 2024

Norman Conners
(Right Stuff – 2000)
by Stephen H. Watkins, Sr.

I’m a Norman Connors fan from way-back, and producer/drummer Connors has not had an album since his 1996 ‘Easy Livin’, so it was with some excitement that I put this CD on. Happily, this is a strong comeback featuring an all-star cast including Peabo Bryson, Angela Bofill, Gerald Albright, Norman Brown, Bobby Lyle, Ray Parker, Jr., Paul Jackson, Jr., Michael Henderson, Gary Bartz, Marion Meadows and Lisa Fischer. Whew… an all star cast indeed!.

Norman has always tread back and forth across the R&B/Jazz line, often trampling it down entirely and this time is no different. There are a couple of R&B remakes, the Delfonics “Didn’t I Blow Your Mind”, Connors’ own “You are my Starship” and the Donny Hathaway Classic “We’re Stil Friends”. “Didn’t I” is slated to be the first single released, and rightly so!. It is beautifully done with Fischer’s strong vocals carrying the tune. “Still Friends” is as emotional as ever, with newcomer Donald Tavie standing in for Donny with strength and feeling, backed by the guitar solos of Paul Jackson, Jr.

“Starship” is pretty (anything Peabo sings usually is) but it did not touch me like the first version. Connors states that he “couldn’t think of anyone else who could sing it”, before he chose Peabo. No offense Norman, but why not have Michael do it again? Be that as it may, this is a great Jazz/R&B release. I also would like to give special mention to “Can’t Say No” which features the vocals of newcomer Denise Stewart, a classic ballad in the Norman Connors tradition.

He may have fallen a little short on his remake of “Starship”, but the new tunes on this CD are to today what Starship was to those days. I thoroughly enjoyed the CD and recommend it to anyone that is a fan of any of the artists named above.

  • Be sure to check out the Norman Connors Interview from last month’s JazzUSA.