By chance, how many of you remember the original guitarist of supergroup Return To Forever? It seems like it was only a few years ago since I was introduced too the voice of Bill Connors (Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy), obviously he’s pressed forward and has recorded several solo projects. Nevertheless, his resume speaks for itself; admittedly I haven’t heard Connors play in years. On the other hand since I’ve listen too his latest release titled “Return” I discovered a rejuvenated spirit speaking the language of jazz with a slightly different voice and oh what a joy it is!


The Players: Bill O’Connell ~ Piano, Lincoln Goines ~ Bass, Kim Planfield ~ Drums, Myra Casales ~ Percussion and Bill Connors ~ Guitar, Produced by Kim Planfield and Pat Thrall on ToneCenter © 2004


Yes, Connors and the gang burst out of the gate with velocity and attitude on the opening track titled “On The Edge”. Connors’s guitar strokes are fluid, well defined in structure; his work is pure artistry in motion. The guys in the band cohabits this composition with equilibrium and cohesion. Pianist Bill O’Connell sets the piano on fire with blazing runs, joined by bassist Lincoln Goines impeccable solos meanwhile drummer/ producer Kim Plainfield interweaves in and out executing flawless solos that the redefines the groove.


Drummer Plainfield opens the next selection by kickin a seriously funky drumbeat on what is called “Mr. Cool”, there’s no time for masquerading here because it’s evident that these guys have come too play. Bassist Goines slides in vertically jammin’ the bass guitar in the lower octave calling upon guitarist Connors to strut his stuff as they now engage in the business of jammin’ some intoxicating music.


Connors voice changes pace on the next track titled “McMinor” his streaming guitar tones echoes with Benson-like symmetry. On this composition Connors’s approach glows with passionate melodies as his accomplices delve into definitive repertoire of delicious and insightful voicings. 


“Mind Over Matter” falls into the 4th spot. Connors and the gang’s focus until point has been on fusing the outer elements of jazz, this time they readjust they’re vision by playing rich and compelling jazz in the swing mode. Pianist Bill O’Connell still plays with the same punctual dynamics as he did in his tenure with Dave Valentin.


As we all know there’s nothing more exciting then original music, so why stop now? Connors compositions continue to sustain through the voicings of timeless, complex, and structural changes. Compositionally, “Minor Matters” is openly expressive as the band interweaves successfully with a genuine passion for playing jazz.


“Try Tone Today” is simply inspiring as it falls into the 6th position with intuitive Metheny-like shadings. This composition happens to be one of my personal favorites on “Return”; it flows naturally with emphasis on rhythmic textures and tantalizing solos. 


You know that you’re listening too a jazz album when you hear tracks like “Terrabill Blues” and yes it’s the blues on the swinging edge. I’m impressed with Plainfield’s drumming skills; he brilliantly interacts with his compatriots.


“Nobody Yet To” soars vivaciously within the dynamics of modern jazz. O’Connell’s playing is radiant here (as on every cut) the guys play together as if they are a seasoned working band. Connors nails each solo with fervor, striving to excel with each amazing chop to make his voice a lasting impression in the mindset of jazz lovers’ vocabulary everywhere.


“It Be fm” explodes into a dazzling fusion exploration at the beginning of the piece. Connors and the gang break it down by concentrating on dialogue of the composition with instrumental voice that speaks extensively by negotiating each enduring note with enthusiasm and absolute perfection. 


Unfortunately this superb listening experience as in all good things must come to an end, so why not conclude this session with astoundingly beautiful “Brasilia”. Connors and the gang far exceed expectations once again with their immaculate interplay.  


It seems as though I can’t say enough about guitarist Bill Connors artistically or compositionally, his music and virtuosity has unexpectedly blown me away. Contemporary/Modern jazz aficionados will simply adorn this masterpiece titled “Return” by Connors; it has all the essential attributes that you come too expect when you hear good music! The band absorbs each composition with passion as if they scored it themselves by exalting with depth and proficiency making their voices heard beyond the indigenous landscape of jazz.




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