Friday, May 27, 2016

Bill Connors - 1987 [1994] "Assembler"

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 and been severely underappreciated. 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 comprised a shorter, LP -length format, offering sonic snippets of Connors' electric visions. Comparisons can easily be made between this release's guitar stylings and those of Allan Holdsworth. 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 also has a lean funky, syncopated groove going on in his compositions; he demonstrates he is a guitarists' guitarist with evident passion for his instrument. Assembler marked the final electrified release of this fusion CD offering of the '80s. Assembler saw an initial 1987 release and then this 1994 re-release on the Evidence label.

Originally released in 1987, "Assembler", by guitarist Bill Connors, is one of the most well-rounded and smoking fusion albums ever produced. The CD features a trio of musicians (Connors, drummer Kim Plainfield and bassist Tom Kennedy) who know what fusion is all about. Reviewer Bill Milkowski explains, ""Assembler" places Connors' flowing, passionate lines in the context of slippery, interactive funk grooves laid down by drummer Plainfield, a master of slick time displacement, and the accomplished 6-string electric bassist Tom Kennedy. The three reach a special accord on originals like the aptly-named "Crunchy", the slamming vamp "Get It To Go" and the soulful, slow moving funk vehicle, "Tell It To The Bass", delivering with hard-hitting rock intensity while navigating the challenging harmonic waters of Connors' compositions. Bill Connors is in rare and ripping form on "Assembler"

One of the most complete sounding fusion albums ever produced. Not well known, but a real jewel. Each musician on the album, there are 3 of them, plays their own melody line. So what you have are three melody line intertwined to make a beautiful sound. Some very high energy cuts "Seacoy" but also some very numbing mellow cuts that make this album one of the greatest "Road Trip" CD's out there.
Sit down, smoke one, and let your mind trace each melody line through the maze of the other instruments. then replay the CD and listen to a different melody line and how it effects the music.

I accidentally discovered Bill Connors while in a CD store back around 1987/88. What I thought, at first, was Allan Holdsworth I was hearing turned out to be Sea Coy. As a guitarist I was instantly hooked; the tone of his guitar and the pulse of the song. At the time I was in my late teens and I was discovering some of the great current Jazz/Fusion guitarists. I was already heavily into Al Di Meola, Allan Holdsworth, Steve Morse; Mike Stern and Pat Metheny but never heard of Bill Connors until that trip to the CD store. I remember just standing there listening to track after track until the album ended and they switched to a different artist. I went up to the counter and inquired about the guitarist that was playing and that's when the store clerk told me all about Bill Connors. I was hooked! I purchased Assembler and played it on my car CD payer! I looped the album and listened to it over and over... If you remember, the first CD players for cars sucked and they eye would start to bounce all over; especially if you hit a pothole or bump... I didn't care, I pushed through until I got home and could play it on my cheap home stereo. For me, this is one of those albums that transcend time! I enjoy listening to it today as much as I did back in 87/88! Sea Coy, Get it to Go are my 2 favorite Bill Connors songs to this day. The fantastic drumming of Kim Plainfield really lays the foundation for Connors; the compliment each other perfectly and Tom Kennedy's bass playing fits this power trio like a glove! If you are an advent Jazz/Fusion fan or a aspiring guitarist looking for someone to help hone your skills, you'd be a fool to look past Bill Connors; especially this album! 

Track listing:

1. Crunchy     03:29    
2. Sea Coy     05:39    
3. Get It To Go     05:10    
4. Assembler     05:07    
5. Add Eleven     06:12    
6. Tell It To The Boss     07:02    
7. It Be FM     05:39    


Bill Connors      -      Guitar, Production
Tom Kennedy      -      Electric Bass
Kim Plainfield      -      Drums



  2. Thank you, never heard of him before either!

  3. Can't resist a rave review. I'm enjoying looking through your blog - nice work. Thanks again. :)