Norman Connors

Easy Living

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By the time Norman Connors had left both Buddha and Arista in the early '90s, he spent some time touring and reviewing his career. Easy Living, released by Motown in 1995, is a full-on entry into smooth jazz territory. While Connors still insisted on employing vocals in tunes that looked toward sophisticated nu-soul, it seems that his primary interest was in narrowing down the once rainbow-wide meld of style on which he'd built his reputation as an innovator. Easy Living is a pleasant and at times engaging listen, with pristine production by the artist, violinist Jheryl Lockhart, and pianist /arranger Herman Jackson. There are guest appearances by Gary Bartz, Juewett Bostick, Gerald Albright, Bobby Lyle, Dale Atkins, Doc Powell, and many others. The opener, "One for Mr. C.," was the album's first single and does well thanks to a memorable little groove and an excellent piano solo by Lyle. It is one of those cuts that sits on the fence between what listeners think of as soul-jazz and smooth contemporary jazz, whereas the title track, which immediately follows, falls firmly into the latter category with a chorus vocal and Albright's sweet soprano saxophone. There are funkier tunes here, too, such as "Precious Love," with an excellent vocal performance by Denise Stewart, and killer urban soul in "The Day We Said I Do." But the clear winner in this stack o' tracks lies near the bottom in the slippery little jazz and light funk groover "Two Thumbs Up," with a smoking flute break by Alan Walker.

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