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Interviews

Leron Thomas: Zen-Mode Humor

By Published: September 23, 2013
Thomas compares himself to serial killers on the popular Showtime series Dexter. "I'm dead serious in everything I do—even down to the humor—I'm dead serious. It's like watching Dexter, you know how some serial killers are methodical but they're kind of comical? That kind of thing."

The trumpeter is even serious about his title tracks even to the most literal sense. "Waiting On Justin," is a song that features Harish Raghavan, Thomas, and Taylor Eigsti on piano. The song came about because they were all literally waiting on Justin Brown. "We had a studio date and he slept through it," Thomas says with a chuckle in his voice. "I think he got his days mixed up. He's a busy dude because he just got the Thundercat call. We were waiting around the studio and played the changes to 'Pent-up House.'" At the end, Justin Brown's absence turned out to be a good thing for Thomas who decided to include "Juini's Redemption," a bass and trumpet duo that he performed once for his senior recital while he was graduating from The New School. "I had 'Juini's Redemption' and thought that it was a good opportunity to [record] it while Justin Brown wasn't there," reveals Thomas.

Even a whimsical title like "Silly Ass," is dead serious for Thomas and not just a reflection of his character. "A lot of things are happening in the world right now and we just need to laugh at ourselves. Look at Miley Cyrus, she's a silly ass," Thomas notes. "We think each other is [sic] dumb and pull silly pranks on each other. There's all sorts of conspiracy theories out there, fake wars, and all kinds of shit. So we're a bunch of silly asses."

The song "As Sheep," is Thomas' commentary on the mob mentality and the lack of individual thinking while its antithesis is the song "Amidst The Wolves," a song about the current state affairs within the music industry. "I think there are people that capitalize on how dumb people are getting," Thomas explains concerning the meaning behind "Amidst The Wolves."

"I think there a lot of people that make records that are name heavy because they feel like people are stupid and they'll buy it. The product itself might not be good but the title and the status of everything looks good," continues Leron Thomas. Though it sounds hypocritical to call out current trends of musicians using big names to promote the album since he uses heavy hitters on his record, Leron Thomas is adamant about that Whatever is purely about the music.

"I think that jazz artists—there's an awakening where we're not about labels, we're about the music," shares Thomas. "We're willing to go out there independently and support each other. The fact that they knew I was independent, even better."

"Taylor Eigsti asked me what I was going to do with the album and I told him that [about] a couple of labels were hollering at me and I said, "I might put it on that label and that label," and he just kind of looked at me and said, 'Just put that shit out.'"

"I'm proud of this record. The way it flows and the way it moves taught me a lot of things and if I do want to do any kind of music I've learned from this what to do. Just like how I've learned from Take It and Dirty Draws Vol. 3 what to do with Whatever."

The charm of Leron Thomas' new record comes from its creator's ability to push through circumstances and release a project that stands alone and defiantly states, "Whatever." Whether he is in the midst of being evicted from an apartment, arguing with jaded engineers on how to record his projects, being written off as bizarre by critics, or simply just waiting around for his drummer to show up, Thomas fights all these situations with the same Zen and focus he uses to navigate through chord changes in order to swing.

Sentiments that relate jazz—or any form of art—to life sound platitudinous, but it is a view shared throughout history by artists from every field. Oscar Wilde once famously wrote in The Decay Of Lying that, "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life." Similarly our dead-serious jazz jester brilliantly states that, "It is important to see what's going on in the jazz scene because it almost foretells what's going on in mankind because the music is so strong from the 20th century going into the 21st that it spun-off all the art forms now. I feel like the jazz musician has the responsibility to encompass this understanding not for gimmicks, but for the sake of art."

Selected Discography

Leron Thomas, Whatever (Self Produced, 2013)

Leron Thomas, Take It (Self Produced, 2013)

Leron Thomas, Dirty Draws Vol. 3 (Self Produced, 2011)

Leron Thomas, Juxtaposed (Self Produced, 2010)

Leron Thomas, Around You (Self Produced, 2010)

Leron Thomas, Improvsensation (Self Produced, 2009)

Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
b.1953
sax, alto
, From The Heart (Palmetto, 2008)

88 Keys, The Death Of Adam (Decon, 2008)

Leron Thomas, Dirty Draws Vol. 2 (Self Produced, 2006)

Leron Thomas, Dirty Draws Vol. 1 (Self Produced, 2005)




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