Norman Connors is a fascinating artist to me. Starting out as a free jazz drummer with people such as Archie Shepp and Pharaoh Sanders,Connors was something of an internal talent scout during the 1970’s. His early solo career consisted of solo albums with an avant garde fusion style that somewhat anticipated the rise of the new age musical concept. By the end of the decade,Connors was known primarily for romantic soul ballads featuring the lead vocals of artists such Jean Carn,the bassist Michael Henderson and his major pet project in the late Phyllis Hyman. One of these ballads,”You Are My Starship” is still his best known song.
Over the past decade or so,I’ve been progressively exploring the music of Norman Connors album by album. Even though he became known for his slow numbers,it was through his uptempo material that his music really evolved. And it was an exciting time too because Connors original run as a solo artist started at the dawn of the funk era and came to a conclusion around the beginning of the post disco period. One major period of his career that has attracted me was from when Connors began transitioning from jazz to a more funk/soul sound in the mid 70’s. And one major cornerstone of that was the title song to his 1974 album Slew Foot.
A hard,fluttering horn chart led by Eddie Henderson opens up the groove as Connors in similar manner to the Bar Kays’ choral horns from 1967’s “Soul Finger”. The Clavinet of Hubert Eaves plays additional rhythm support-as each refrain is separated by a break featuring a bluesy amp’d guitar from future Mtume member Reggie Lucus. He is supported on bass by Anthony Jackson on those scaling,cinematic refrains before Lucas gets a chance to really rock out on the middle chorus of the song. The rhythm scales back down to the drums,bass line and Clavinet on the final part of the song. Especially right as the horns fanfare the song right into fade out.
Norman Connors really lifted up cinematic funk at a very important time. This was during the blacksploitation era when Isaac Hayes was winning best musical score for his work on Shaft. Not to mention Curtis Mayfield’s huge success with Superfly and Roy Ayers with Coffey. Even though this song wasn’t in a movie,it was surely funk that moved itself on every level. Both rhythmically and melodically. It was also a building block in the evolution of Reggie Lucus’s transition into funk with the late 70’s edition of Mtume as well. So as a musician and a major talent assembler,this was some of Norman Connors’ finest funk!