This vinyl upgrade of a 1973 under appreciate jazz album is wonderful!

Norman Connors – Love From The Sun – Buddah Records BDS5142 (1973)/ Pure Pleasure Records PPAN BDS5142 180-gram stereo vinyl, 40:49 ****:

Philadelphia drummer Norman Connors became aware of jazz at a very early age, elementary school. As a middle schooler he got to sit in for Elvin Jones with none other than John Coltrane. After studying music at Temple University and Julliard, Connors first recorded with Archie Shepp in 1967 (Magic Of JuJu). he played with Pharaoh Sanders for a few years and eventually signed with Cobblestone Records (a division of Buddha Records) in 1972. His traditional jazz roots became influenced by rhythm and blues during the 1970’s and beyond. In 1973, Connors released Love From The Sun on Buddha Records. The album served as a bridge between old school jazz and the emerging fusion movement. Featuring Herbie Hancock (with several of the musicians in his Mwandishi ensemble) and a pre-stardom Dee Dee Bridgewater, Connors established himself as a unique musician and arranger.

Pure Pleasure Records has released an audiophile vinyl re-mastering of Love From The Sun. Somewhat overlooked in 1973, it seems appropriate to re-examine this seminal Buddha release. The creative prominence of this project is showcased on the 9 minute opening track “Revelation” (a Herbie Hancock composition). With a variety of spacey jazz lines, featuring Hancock on Fender Rhodes, Carlos Garnett on soprano saxophone and Hubert Laws’ ethereal flute, Buster Williams lays down a funky beat that is propelled by Connors stellar drumming. Hancock interacts with Williams in his solo and Eddie Henderson’s vibrato-less trumpet lines offer a crisp sharp notation in counterpoint to the atmospheric touches. Dee Dee Bridgewater contributes some vocalese to the ambitious arrangement. This experimental hybrid approach to jazz had been explored by Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. “Carlos II”, written by trumpeter/flugelhornist Garnett employs a syncopated Latin-infused framework.. Hancock cuts loose on electric piano and Garnett’s piercing soprano runs connect with bop roots. Connors turns the spotlight inward on “Drums Around The World”. His potent instrumental mastery is presented in a fierce combination of polyrhythmic drumming and infectious African “drum circle” percussion/chanting (Bill Summers). The hypnotic pull of this music is emphatic.

Side Two begins with the expansive title cut. Arranged by keyboardist Onaje Allan Gumbs, the talent of Bridgewater’s heartfelt stylized vocals are front and center. Framed by double-tracked evocative flute shadings, Gumbs’ arrangement takes on a symphonic complexity with stringed accompaniment. Connors nimbly executes subtle tempo changes and Gumbs sparkles on Fender Rhodes. Henderson’s muted trumpet solo adds a different layer as the overall swelling resonance infuses the song. Switching gears, “Kumakutcha” is hard-driving bop with a palpable feel of compelling Dizzy Gillespie large band fluency. The complicated rhythm patterns sustain the relentless tempo and passion of the musicians. Hancock executes a mesmerizing acoustic piano solo. Both Gary Bartz (soprano saxophone) and Henderson (trumpet) ramp up the intensity with force and conviction on their solos. Connors adds a drum solo and as the whole ensemble combines, the explosive results are cohesive and stirring. The finale (“Holy Waters”) brings back Bridgewater with bluesy elegance. Garnett blows the roof off on soprano while Gumbs interacts with the horn/reed parts in graceful nuances. The final vocal fade brings this wild amalgam of hard-edged jazz and spirituality to a satisfying close.

Pure Pleasure Records has done its customary superb job of analog re-mastering. The stereo separation is flawless. The drums, percussion and double bass anchor the bottom of the mix. There is agile tonal emphasis on the Fender Rhodes with echo and reverberation. The soprano is captured with sharpness and clarity without shrillness. A high-gloss gatefold is nothing short of luxurious. Love From The Sun should appeal to a diverse group of jazz enthusiasts.    

TrackList:
Side One: Revelation; Carlos II; Drums Around The World
Side Two: Love From The Sun; Kumakucha (The Sun Has Risen); Holy Waters

Performing Artists:
Norman Connors – drums; Dee Dee Bridgewater – vocals; Herbie Hancock – Fender Rhodes, electric piano, piano; Buster Williams – double bass; Eddie Henderson – trumpet, cornet, flugelhorn; Carlos Garnett – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone; Bill Summers – percussion, vocals; Gary Bartz – alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Onaje Allan Gumbs – Fender Rhodes, electric piano, piano; Kenneth Nash – percussion, conga; Hubert Laws – flute, alto flute; Nathan Rubin – violin; Terry Adams – cello

—Robbie Gerson