Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!

18

Nucleus with Leon Thomas: Live 1970

Bruce Lindsay By

Sign in to view read count
Combine a British jazz-rock outfit with an American vocalist. Put them on stage at the 1970 Montreux Jazz Festival. Record the gig, pop the tapes in a safe place for over 40 years, then give them to the talented team at Gearbox Records. The result is Live 1970, by Nucleus With Leon Thomas, a beautifully produced, lavishly packaged, vinyl double album that invokes feelings of nostalgia and puzzlement alike.

Nostalgia? For those who were there—not necessarily at Montreux, just around the scene in 1970. Puzzlement? For those who weren't there, who might wonder at this strange collusion—a vocalist who mixed spirituality and a strident anti-Vietnam War stance with a propensity to yodel in a "Frank Ifield meets Tommy Cooper" style, backed by a bunch of up-and-coming jazz-rockers.

This was not a long-term relationship. Thomas played at London's Ronnie Scott's Club in early June and Nucleus worked as his backing band. Nucleus was at Montreux to play—and eventually win—the international jazz band contest. So Thomas and the band joined forces once more, just a few days after Ronnie's.

The Montreux Jazz Festival wasn't limited to jazz acts—in 1970 Carlos Santana and British blues bands Stone The Crows and Chicken Shack played alongside Bill Evans and Yusef Lateef. Nucleus and Thomas delivered a program that included the spiritual sound of "The Creator Has A Master Plan," the snaking groove of "Echoes" and the classic R&B of "Chains Of Love."

This album gives Nucleus top billing, but only Thomas' name appeared on the festival's poster. On "The Journey" he introduces "The Nucleus" using their first names only—giving the distinct impression that he was The Boss. Thomas seems to have kept things under control musically. The musicians get space to open out and solo, but without the self-indulgence that could overtake them at times on Nucleus' own albums.

Although Nucleus included key British jazzers and jazz rockers—trumpeter Ian Carr, drummer John Marshall and oboist Karl Jenkins (now one of the most popular classical composers on Earth)—the most emphatic instrumental contribution comes from guitarist Chris Spedding. His rhythm playing on "The Creator Has A Master Plan," which Thomas first recorded with Pharoah Sanders, is subtle and understated, on "Echoes" he's spiky and on "Damn 'Nam (Ain't Going To Viet Nam)" and "Chains Of Love" he lays down raunchy blues lines.

Thomas is an engaging singer, with a slight rawness to his voice that's especially effective on the bluesier tracks. His vocal on "Damn 'Nam (Ain't Going To Viet Nam)" is impassioned and honest, the lyrics direct. These blues tunes are rhythmically strong, thanks mainly to Marshall. Thomas' yodelling hasn't aged so well, coming across as something of a caricature, especially on the lengthy and lyric-free "The Journey." Despite this, Live 1970 is enjoyable: a glimpse into a collaboration that seems odd on paper, but made a certain kind of sense on stage.

Track Listing: The Creator Has a Master Plan; Echoes; Damn ‘Nam (Ain’t Going to Viet Nam); One; Chains of Love; The Journey

Personnel: Leon Thomas: vocals; Ian Carr: trumpet, flugelhorn; Karl Jenkins: oboe, piano; Brian Smith: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute; Chris Spedding: guitar; Jeff Clyne: bass; John Marshall: drums

Title: Live 1970 | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Gearbox Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns CD/LP/Track Review Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Song of No Regrets CD/LP/Track Review Song of No Regrets
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Sounding Tears CD/LP/Track Review Sounding Tears
by John Sharpe
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Lighthouse CD/LP/Track Review Lighthouse
by Glenn Astarita
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Kill The Boy CD/LP/Track Review Kill The Boy
by Chris Mosey
Published: December 16, 2017
Read Rain or Shine CD/LP/Track Review Rain or Shine
by Jack Bowers
Published: December 15, 2017
Read "Double Down" CD/LP/Track Review Double Down
by James Nadal
Published: June 10, 2017
Read "Blue Maqams" CD/LP/Track Review Blue Maqams
by John Kelman
Published: October 13, 2017
Read "Lavaman" CD/LP/Track Review Lavaman
by Mark Corroto
Published: December 13, 2017
Read "Greatest Hits Live" CD/LP/Track Review Greatest Hits Live
by Doug Collette
Published: September 2, 2017
Read "Agrima" CD/LP/Track Review Agrima
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: October 18, 2017
Read "Find the Way" CD/LP/Track Review Find the Way
by Karl Ackermann
Published: May 26, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!