Like contemporaries George Benson and Patrice Rushen, drummer Norman Connors began his music career in jazz but transitioned into melodious R&B. Connors played on free-jazz watersheds by Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders (Magic of Ju-Ju and Black Unity, respectively) then led his own groups, infusing unconstrained improvisation with funk. By 1975, he’d embraced R&B completely, employing the winsomely seductive voices of ex-Motown bassist Michael Henderson and the late Phyllis Hyman. With the Henderson-sung hit “You Are My Starship,” he’d laid the foundation for crossover jazz and the quiet storm to come. Connor kept a low profile for most of the ’80s but re-emerged in the ’90s. On his latest album, Star Power, he keeps pace with sultry urban grooves, ably assisted by Ray Parker Jr. and Marion Meadows. He performs at 8 and 10 tonight at Nighttown (12387 Cedar Rd., Cleveland Hts., 216.795.0550). Tickets: $30. — Mark Keresman
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