When Norman Connors made the transition from jazz albums to commercially successful R&B-oriented dates, the drummer found himself being lambasted repeatedly in jazz press (something Roy Ayers, Patrice Rushen, George Duke and George Benson could also relate to). Myopic jazz critics trashed Romantic Journey simply because it contains so much R&B/pop, as opposed to judging its merits as an R&B/pop-oriented album. Though not as strong as its predecessor, You Are My Starship, this decent offering has its strong points, including Philip Mitchell's vocal on the haunting "Destination Moon" and Eleanore Mills' performance on a likable cover of the Stylistics' "You Are Everything."
Percussionist Norman Hedman's medium-sized combo is well named; it plays an engaging blend of salsa, Latin jazz, bomba, samba, and just about any other warm-climate dance idiom you can think of. The flute occasionally has a hard time getting in tune with the brass but, other than that, the sound is lush, sweet, and gently, percolatingly funky – less a musical stew than a fruit salad. Hedman's influences include Cal Tjader and Armando Peraza, and while he also owes a clear debt to the big salsa bands, he deliberately avoids overwhelming the listener with too many layers of percussive polyrhythm.
Here you have three absolutely breathtaking jazz performers locked into a studio for a day or so. From this combination of guitar, standup bass, and acoustic drum kit, you've got nine tracks of sheer jazz joy – three guys just blowing for the hell of it, recorded on the fly. There's a strong sense here that engineer Rob Eaton probably tried to get everybody properly set up and balanced before the session started and just gave up when everybody started playing. It's a delight to hear, because everything has gone into the performance, which is spontaneous and graceful – no going back for the next take here. Pat Metheny's playing is definitely modernistic, highly fluid, almost liquid lightning – no effects boxes here, though (he does play Synclavier on the last track, "Three Flights Up," but it's great anyway). Roy Haynes, likewise, should be heard by anybody wanting to get behind the traps: this man has a sense of humor, and he's a blur of motion. Dave Holland, on bass, is no slouch either, keeping pace with Metheny's guitar lines, and balancing up against Haynes' drums. Together, these guys are incredible.