Leon at his best
Peter Gose | Regina, SK Canada | 10/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording memorably showcases Leon Thomas' unique singing and scat-yodelling talents against the backdrop of a kinder and gentler free jazz sound than his better-known work with Pharoah Sanders, and an extremely appreciative audience. The band is just right: Oliver Nelson's grooves and solos on alto sax are a perfect foil for the vocals, Gunther Lenz "breaks down all the walls" on bass, and the rest of the rhythm section is right there too. But above all this recording catches some of Leon Thomas' finest vocal moments. His blistering, babbling, resonating scat solo on "The Creator has a Master Plan" explores the outer limits of what the human voice can do, and makes this the definitive rendition of that classic period-piece. Not many people can hear it without wanting to make those sounds themselves! The re-release of this recording on CD was long overdue, but at last it's here, and can assume its rightful place in our lives again. Three decades later, the verbal message of peace, love and the beauty of travel rings truer than ever, particularly from this most singular of voices."
Leon Thomas = Coltrane+Joe Williams
Louis Alemayehu | Minneapolis/Saint Paul, MN USA | 05/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album was forged in the creative fires of the Black Arts Movement of the late 60's, early 70's.
When it comes to vocal improvisation, there were a top three to my ears: Betty Carter, Joe Williams and Leon Thomas. Using some of the the vocal techniques of the so called "pygmies", mid career Coltrane pyrotechnics, the blues and bop, Leon Thomas came up with an approached to jazz vocal that was truly innovative. With Joe, Betty and Leon now gone, there are few that even come close to the level of improvisational creativity those 3 practiced.
"Leon Thomas in Berlin" is an under-appreciate Jazz Classic. Definitely worth having and enjoying for years to come. There is nothing dated about it. Just as most of the catalogues of Miles and Coltrane seldom sound dated, here you will find what I feel is the best recording of The Creator Has a Master Plan, originally written and performed by Thomas and Pharoah Sanders.
Oliver Nelson of "Blues and the Abstract Truth" fame (another jazz classic) on alto sax, never sounded better than he does here on this exuburant blowing session: Soaring ostinatos, modal blues, lyrics on the rhythmns bloom/ notes drenching us, blessings with some good wine from the cosmic "upper room". His solos on Pharoah's Tune/Echos are full of wonder and intoxicating transcendance.
Today the authentic art of serious & ecstatic jazz singing is in serious decline. Kurt Elling takes the art form seriously and continues to grow and perform at a very high level development. Unfortunately Kurt doesn't have a lot of challenging company or competition these days.
This is Leon Thomas at his best. I understand that Thomas sang The Creator Has a Master Plan in duet with Louie Armstrong on what turned out to be Satchmo's last recording date.
How appropriate when you consider that the art of jazz singing in many ways was invented by Armstrong and was further developed by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Williams, Sarah Vaughn,Carmen McRae, Betty Carter. Betty Carter and Leon Thomas stretch this art form to it's outer limits. Betty Carter(Charlie Parker inspired) & Leon Thomas (Coltrane inspired) brought things full circle... for the time being. Where are the new ones who will carry on and extend the tradition??? I hope, whoever they are, they hear THIS one!"