Norman Connors

Like Roy Ayers, George Benson, and Patrice Rushen, Norman Connors is best known for his major R&B hits but started out as a jazz improviser. The drummer/composer was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he lived in the same neighborhood as Bill Cosby and became interested in jazz when he was only a child. As a kid in elementary school, Connors was exposed to jazz extensively thanks to such schoolmates as drummer Lex Humphries and the younger brother of bassist and Jazz Messenger-to-be Spanky De Brest. Connors was in junior high when he began sneaking into jazz clubs and sat in for Elvin Jones at a John Coltrane gig. At 13, he first got to meet his idol, Miles Davis, and started expressing his admiration for the famous trumpeter by dressing like him. Connors went on to study music at Philly's Temple University and the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Gigs with Jackie McLean, Jack McDuff, and Sam Rivers followed, and he was first recorded as a sideman when Archie Shepp employed him on his 1967 Impulse! session Magic of Ju-Ju.