Norman Connors music of the 70’s and early 80’s is something I personally cannot find much to any fault with, in the musicianship and compositional strength. Now he did establish something of a formula. That is basically emphasizing urban/adult contemporary fusion peppered with his free and Brazilian jazz influences. Basically his albums always contained a good handful of very slow ballads during this period. By 1981,it would seem Connors’ run of album releases was showing signs of drawing to a close.
The funk and disco eras were also both going in the same direction. So what did Norman Connors do? He changed up his groove. “She’s Gone” begins the album on a processed Rhodes piano led groove that’s thick on the boogie funk rhythm with horns and heavy percussion. “Party Town” throws on the bass and lead synthesizer in phat,grooving layers on a jam that gets down deep into electro funk territory. “Keep Doin’ It” has a rhythmically sleek post disco vibe while “Stay With Me” had a thick Caribbean style dance/funk percussive groove.
“Anyway You Want” and “Love’s In Your Corner” keep that percussive funk percolating right along while “Sing A Love Song” has a sexy mid-tempo jazz/funk vibe and an elaborate melody. It’s the closest thing to a ballad here. The album ends with the instrumental title song-combining Connors’ jazzy arrangements into the post disco/boogie framework. From beginning to end,this album is completely different then any other Norman Connors album I’ve ever heard. It actually doesn’t contain any slow ballads whatsoever.
The uptempo songs it contains are heavy on the contemporary funk style of the time. All the same,Connors talents as an arranger are all over this session musician heavy release. Most of his previous albums had contained funk oriented numbers. Yet the fact that this 1981 album prioritized it to such a degree showed how thoroughly musical a thinker Connors was. Uptempo funky music was not exactly publicly embraced during this era. Just perhaps, Norman Connors realized that his musical acumen had the power to not only change for his own sake but give the funky soul lovers just what they wanted
Bobby Broom’s musical career has always, in some way, been tied into musical education. Born in Harlem in 1961, he went onto study jazz guitar with local player Jimmy Carter. He then went onto gigs with musicians such as Charlie Parker alumni Al Haig. After his university education at Berkeley, he began a stint with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, probably the ultimate training ground there was in jazz at that time. As well as maintaining a recording career, the now 57 year old Broom is also Director of African American Music at Studies at the University Of Hartford, Connecticut.
One of Broom’s childhood heroes was George Benson. Both physically and stylistically, that’s how he presented himself on his 1981 GRP/Arista debut Clean Sweep. In a career that would find him playing with both Sonny Rollins in the 80’s and even guesting on R.Kelly’s 12 Play album in the 90’s, Broom’s solo debut found his music in a jazz/funk plus a one jazz standard format similar to Bernard Wright’s ‘Nard album of the same vintage. Having listened to it, the album has no weak songs. And is generally instrumental. One of my favorite funk numbers on the album is called “Saturday Night”.
Marcus Miller walks right up to Buddy Williams’ funkified drums on the intro-settling into a seven note bass run as percussionist Crusher Bennett joins in on the congas. Broom’s very Benson like melodic guitar solos-both on the refrains and choral sequences, are accented by Terry Burrus Fender Rhodes textures and acoustic piano walks. The backup vocals of Lori-Ann Velez, Omar Hakim, Cliff Branch and Poogie Bell provide a party atmosphere in the back round of the entire song. After the drums kick up a notch for Broom’s extended solo on the bridge, the song fades out on an extended chorus.
“Saturday Night” is one of the finest electric guitar centered jazz funk grooves of the early 80’s that I’ve heard. Probably coming in right in the same league as George Benson’s “Off Broadway”. Marcus Miller both played and arranged the tune. And the conversational vocals and chants of Broom and the backup singers involved really evoke the atmosphere of a hip dance party of that period. As my friend Henrique pointed out, its also probably of the last generation of jazz funk that was not synthesizer based. And that makes “Saturday Night” the type of groove that spans an evolution within jazz/funk.
Linx were a a Brit funk/soul/disco group with a rather short lived career. It was a six member band featuring keyboardist Bob Carter, drummer Andy Duncan, guitarist Canute Edwards, bassist Peter Martin,backup vocalist Junior Giscombe and lead singer David Grant. The group split up in early 1983-after Junior had left to begin a solo career and Grant was about to do the same. After a moderately successful solo career, Grant became a successful backing singer for people such as Rick Astley and The Lighthouse Family. He later became a judge on the UK TV show Pop Idol with his second wife Carrie.
Linx recorded two albums during 1981, the first of which I picked up four years ago on vinyl. Their major hit on it was “Intuition”, a Caribbean flavored post disco number became popular to its accompanying music video being played so often on the British music program Top Of The Pops. And all due to a technicians strike. The overall album is a superb example of how the post disco/boogie funk sound thrived,prospered and evolved along with new romantic/synth pop during the early 80’s. One fine example of this was the song “Together We Can Shine”.
A dance beat begins the song with a pulsing Fender Rhodes and a bluesy funk rhythm guitar break. As the main song kicks in, Martin’s slap bass line kicks in heavy. The dance beat becomes more steady. Carter adds spacey synthesizer flourishes-which become very high pitched on the choruses along with the melodic, liquid rhythm guitar bubbling right along. On the bridge of the song, the vocals of the refrain move aside for Carter’s piano solo before Grant’s vocals return. Before the fading refrain, the song breaks off into a percussive Brazilian funk breakdown.
Musically speaking, “Together We Can Shine” showcases the vitality and diversity within the UK post disco/boogie scene. Many American groups/ soloists emerging from that were primarily disco and funk based from the get go. In terms of Linx, its a different story. Bob Carter and Canute Edwards play in a manner very indicative of jazz oriented instrumentalists. Bassist “Sketch” Martin and drummer Andy Duncan have a strong Brazilian funk flavor to their playing. So this song is a superb example of the post disco sound coming from a diverse level of musicianship from the sound of things.