Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bill Connors - 1986 [1994] "Double Up"

Bill Connors is known in fusion circles primarily for being the guitarist with Return To Forever on their groundbreaking Hymn Of The Seventh Galaxy album in 1973. While that was his breakthrough into the jazz and fusion recording industry, he quit the band after the single album and tour, due to creative differences. Since then, he has gone on to a successful solo career, as well as sitting in with other jazz giants, such as Stanley Clarke, Jan Garbarek and Paul Bley. In recent years, he has even performed again with the revived Return To Forever.

For another fine example of blazing, burning, incendiary (did we mention fiery) legato guitar playing, look no further than Bill Connors work on "Double Up". A fan favorite, Connors hooks up with bassist Tom Kennedy and drummer Kim Plainfield to deliver fluid fusion in a trio setting in the Holdsworthian vein. Many remember Connors with Return To Forever (predating a young Al DiMeola), and his pedigree helped bring attention to this 1994 release. Six tracks, none less than about five minutes, means plenty of time to stretch, develop themes and -- solo! Which Connors handles with style and fire. Kick yourself if you've not discovered this fusion guitar delight.

Guitarist Bill Connors has forged a successful career by mixing light, pop-oriented fusion cuts with more ambitious works that showcase his considerable solo abilities and compositional skills. This was a trio date with Connors (who doubled as producer) playing in an introspective vein, showing his funk and rock side, and then playing with more imagination and style. The playing time was quite short (35 minutes-plus), but there was enough of Connors' guitar work presented to satisfy his fans and fusion/pop/light jazz followers.

This CD just burns. Bill Connors had been around a long time, playng with Chick Corea ( he was Chicks first guitarist)and Stanley Clarke. This CD is nothing like the Chick Corea stuff. Many people compare his style to Allan Holdsworth, and there are some similarities, but there are also many differences. What is similar are the chord structure that they both use. As far as soloing goes, I think that Allan is much more creative , but Bill is still pretty darn good. The supporting musicians are what make the CD so good. Kim Plainfield is just an awesome powerhouse drummer and that really keeps the music flowing. I have several of Bill Connors albums and I would have to say that this one is my favorite with Step it and Assembler right behind. If you love instrumental jazz/fusion, you are going to love Bill Connors.

Yeah, all the reviewers got it right. This is a fusion classic, simply great playing and quirky, memorable compositions. Bill Connors is not just a finger-busting fretboard speedfreak, he is an intelligent, melodic improviser with amazing technique. Bill Connors plays all parts here, harmony, melody and solo, supported by a rock-solid rhythm section.

I would never guess at what he was capable of while with Return to Forever, not having heard his later work, like this album. It's hard to compare him against Al DiMeola, but I'd say he has a more versatile and robust technique, and an ear for melody. Definitely a must in any fusion collection.

'Double Up' by Bill Connors may be a FEW years old, but I believe it is some of the best guitar fusion out there. Yes, it does have an Allen Holdsworth sound to it, but Bill does have his own voice and perhaps he does hat tip to Mr. Holdsworth. We don't live in a vacuum, so we are influenced by a lot of what we hear. There isn't any neo-classical shredding on this, although one could argue that there is a lot of tasty progressive fusion in the mix. Nothing wrong with that. I still enjoy my shred but I also like to indulged on the other side of the buffet table and Bill fits the 'bill'.

This is by far my favorite release from Bill Connors. If you are into fusion and jazz-like rock..that combined with Bill's mind blowing technical prowess on the guitar, well there's simply no better than Mr. Connors and "Double Up"

Tracks Listing

1. Subtracks (4:58)
2. Tud (5:30)
3. Floor To Floor (6:40)
4. Crunchy Cuts Up (5:45)
5. Long Distance (5:53)
6. Out By Twelve (6:39)

Total Time 35:25

Line-up / Musicians

- Bill Connors / guitar
- Kim Plainfield / drums
- Tom Kennedy / bass



  2. Beautiful album with a strong Allan Holdsworth influence, good composition and superb improvs. Very different from his work with Return to Forever, a real surprise (for me) at the time.

  3. Just have to say that your blog is fantastic. Brings me back to the mid 1980s when I finally gave up on where rock had gone since 1975 and went heavy into the fusion bands where musicians still played.