Bill Connors preceded Al Di Meola in Return to Forever, then became an ECM acoustic stylist in the Ralph Towner/John Abercrombie mold, then returned to the legato, distorted RTF sound and made three fusion albums for Evidence in the 1980s. After a long reclusive spell, Connors has given us Return (Tone Center), reuniting with drummer Kim Plainfield and also hiring electric bassist Lincoln Goines, pianist Bill O’Connell and percussionist Myra Casales. Playing a Gibson L5 and using a clean, conventional jazz tone, Connors has reinvented himself yet again, taking leave of the Allan Holdsworth/Scott Henderson school. There are straightahead jazz elements on Return (particularly “Minor Matters,” “Mind Over Matter” and “Terrabill Blues”), but overall the music is rooted in a fusion aesthetic. O’Connell, who has done compelling work of his own on the Random Chance label, contributed three of the album’s 10 cuts, including the opening “On the Edge.”
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