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Leon Thomas

Leon Thomas is one of the most unique and gifted of all jazz vocalists, he shocked the jazz world with his amazing capabilities when he took it by storm in the late 1960s with his collaborations with Pharoah Sanders.

Leon Thomas born in East St. Louis, Illinois on Oct. 4 1937, and studied music at Tennesseee State University, eventually moving to New York City in 1958. Early sessions included work with names like Count Basie, Randy Weston, Roland Kirk and Oliver Nelson before linking up with Pharoah Sanders for a partnership that continues to entrance listeners today.

Leon recorded on two of Sanders’ most renowned classics “Karma,” (1969) and “Jewels Of Thought,” (1970) and his vocals on the cuts "The Creator Has A Master Plan" and "Hum-Allah" have ensured his reputation. Just as Sonny Sharrock's startling guitar was the unique foil for Pharoah's slashing saxophone, so Leon Thomas had the virtuosity, intensity and blinding originality to keep up with Sanders. It was on these recordings that Leon revealed his unique vocal gift which might best be described as kind of scat-yodelling, offbeat and wonderful sounds which seem to well up from his inner being.

Having made his name with Pharoah, Leon was ready for a solo career and the Flying Dutchman label stepped in with a deal. The label represented total freedom and support for the artist and Thomas responded to this environment with a series of great albums.

He started with the majestic “Spirits Known And Unknown,”(1969) followed quickly by “The Leon Thomas Album.” A couple of engaging live albums followed before the release of two excellent albums, “Blues And The Soulful Truth,” (1972) and “Full Circle,” (1973) the first of these was an up blues-based LP full of vivacity and humour which included a vocal take of "Gypsy Queen" which is a testament to Thomas' invention.

These Leon Thomas albums were a heady brew of soul- jazz, free-jazz, blues, Latin Percussion, "world music" and drove paths through spirituality, black consciousness, black power, urban jive and anti-Vietnam war politics. He was at the cutting edge of radical black music that held John Coltrane as its figurehead and could also be found on labels like Black Jazz.

Thomas' profile was very high in the free-jazz scene as witnessed by dates with high profile figures in the movement like Ornette Coleman, Roland Kirk and Archie Shepp but he was also catching the ear of some of the jazz greats including Louis Armstrong and Johnny Hodges. In one of the most curious but exhilarating combinations in jazz, Leon Thomas appeared on Louis Armstong's last album and cut a version of "The Creator Has A Master Plan" with the man himself.

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Album Review

Leon Thomas: Spirits Known And Unknown

Read "Spirits Known And Unknown" reviewed by Chris May

Spiritual-jazz fans in London have had a good 2019. The music looms large in several of the most prominent bands on the city's happening woke jazz scene. On top of that, London's Gearbox Records released Mothership, an on-point album by singer Dwight Trible, who also played a memorable one-nighter at Ronnie Scott's club. Trible is a stylistic descendant of spiritual-jazz auteur Leon Thomas, who created the genre's vocal strand while studying and performing with pianist Horace Tapscott's ...

Album Review

Leon Thomas: Full Circle

Read "Full Circle" reviewed by Craig Jolley

One of the many promising vocalists who followed Joe Williams in the 1960's Count Basie band (Bill Henderson, O. C. Smith, Irene Reid, and Richard Boone were others.), Leon Thomas more than lived up to his promise. He is most noted for his yodeling (He substituted it for scat and gave it deeper meaning than scat.), but he was rock solid blues at bottom. His music referenced the social upheaval of the 1960's -70's, but because of his artistry and ...

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STLJN Audio Archive: The Leon Thomas Album

STLJN Audio Archive: The Leon Thomas Album

Source: St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman

For this week's installment of the StLJN Audio Archive, we revisit The Leon Thomas Album, originally issued by the late singer and East St. Louisan Leon Thomas in 1970 on the now-defunct Flying Dutchman label. In contrast to Thomas' sparse debut recording. Spirits Known and Unknown, which positioned him as part of the music's avant-garde, his second album as a leader features a full band arranged by saxophonist and St. Louis native Oliver Nelson and including a number of well-known ...



STLJN Audio Archive: Facets: The Legend of Leon Thomas

STLJN Audio Archive: Facets: The Legend of Leon Thomas

Source: St. Louis Jazz Notes by Dean Minderman

Today, we introduce a new recurring feature, the StLJN Audio Archive, that will appear occasionally on Sundays. As the name implies, the idea is spotlight out-of-print recordings by St. Louis artists that are available as free downloads somewhere on the Internet. StLJN has featured this sort of thing before at irregular intervals, but after doing some concerted searching for available resources, there seem to be enough out there to warrant a semi-regular feature. A few caveats: We will link only ...



Visionary Percussionist Babatunde Lea's "Umbo Weti" - A Musical Tribute to Leon Thomas

Visionary Percussionist Babatunde Lea's "Umbo Weti" - A Musical Tribute to Leon Thomas

Source: DL Media

Visionary Drummer/Percussionist Babatunde Lea Releases UMBO WETI - A Musical Tribute to Legendary Jazz Vocalist & Songwriter Leon Thomas Percussion virtuoso Babatunde Lea first envisioned a tribute to legendary jazz vocalist and composer Leon Thomas shortly after the singer passed in 1999. The efforts reach fruition on Lea's latest release for the Motma label, UMBO WETI. Featuring a stellar band of improvisers: Dwight Trible (vocals), Ernie Watts (tenor sax), Gary Brown (bass), Patrice Rushen (piano), and Lea on drums and ...



Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Spirits Known And...

Ace Records UK


It's My Life I'm...

Timewarp Music


Full Circle

RCA Records



Timewarp Music



Theresa Records


A Piece Of Cake

Timewarp Music




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