Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bill Connors Returns to Play with Corea, Clarke & White

A few hours ago Chick Corea tweeted and facebooked an announcement that he and friends Lenny White and Stanley Clarke will be joined September 2nd at the Hollywood Bowl kick-off gig of their fall tour by Jean-Luc Ponty, Chaka Khan and Bill Connors.

That's right. Jean-Luc Ponty, the great violinist.

Chaka Khan, the wonderful song stylist.

And Bill Connors. The preeminent guitarist Corea originally chose to bring into the band in 1973 so that Return To Forever could "make your hair move" musically like his friend John McLaughlin was doing with Mahavishnu Orchestra. Connors will join his former band mates when they open their tour at the storied Highland Ave. venue in Los Angeles.

At least for one night. When pressed for details of whether he would join them for what has recently grown into a world tour, a man-sized little birdie told me it isn't known yet. Implying that if everything clicked, it could happen.

It could also not happen. It's been 35 years since they last played together. That plus the fact that Connors has made a career out of never making a predictable career move, beginning with leaving Return To Forever just as their stars were rising. They had recently recorded what is arguably their finest electric album, Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (Polydor, 1973) and were engaged on a successful worldwide tour when he announced he was going to depart. He may well have harbored various disagreements with the direction the band was taking, but his immediate immersion in an intensive study of classical guitar was far and away his aim and the most significant clue to how he conducted himself over the next decade, as he literally re-trained himself to use all his fingers in ways utterly alien to the picking methods used with an electric guitar. Other jazz guitarists like John McLaughlin, Paco de Lucia and Al Di Meola have all advanced their technique and stretched and extended their stylistic limitations over the years, but Bill Connors stands alone in his tireless pursuit of greater and greater skill. Over the course of his career his constant determination has taken him through technical realms most guitarists never imagine. Celebrity and its accompanying paycheck have not so much eluded him as they have been ignored by him; artistic growth has been his raison d' etre.

So this is good news, very good news.

If you live in Los Angeles, treat yourself and see Bill Connors perform with Corea, Clarke and White on September 2nd. It may well be your only chance to see this most lyrical and soulful guitarist play again with these fine musicians, but no matter what actually happens after September 2nd, it will certainly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Get your tickets soon.

09/02 - Hollywood Bowl - Los Angeles, CA

09/04 - Detroit International Jazz Festival - Detroit, MI

09/05 - Lehigh University - Zoellner Arts Center - Bethlehem, PA

09/07 - Dakota Jazz Club - Minneapolis, MN

09/08 - Dakota Jazz Club - Minneapolis, MN

09/10 - Anthology - San Diego, CA

09/11 - Anthology - San Diego, CA

09/12 - Anthology - San Diego, CA

09/15 - Yoshi's - Oakland, CA

09/16 - Yoshi's - Oakland, CA

09/17 - Yoshi's - Oakland, CA

09/18 - Yoshi's - Oakland, CA

09/20 - Monterey Jazz Festival - Monterey, CA

09/22 - Humboldt State University - Van Duzer Theater - Arcata, CA

09/25 - University at Buffalo - Center for the Arts Mainstage - Buffalo, NY

09/26 - The Royal Conservatory Telus Centre for Performance and Learning Koerner Hall -Toronto, Ontario CANADA

09/29 - Bergen Performing Arts Center - Englewood, NJ

10/22 - Turcoing Jazz Festival - Turcoing, FRANCE

10/24 - Palace Hall - Bucharest, ROMANIA

10/26 - Skopje Jazz Festival 2009 - Skopje, MACEDONIA

10/27 - 50! Jazz Festival Ljubljana - Ljubljana, SLOVENIA

10/31 - Theaterhaus Gessnerallee - Zurich, Switzerland

11/13 - Oosterpoort Main Hall - Groningen, NETHERLANDS

11/27 - Blue Note Tokyo - Tokyo, JAPAN

11/28 - Blue Note Tokyo - Tokyo, JAPAN

11/29 - Blue Note Tokyo - Tokyo, JAPAN

11/30 - Blue Note Tokyo - Tokyo, JAPAN

12/01 - Blue Note Tokyo - Tokyo, JAPAN

12/02 - Blue Note Tokyo - Tokyo, JAPAN

12/05 - Esplanade Concert Hall - Singapore, SINGAPORE

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