Waaay back in the late ’60s-early ’70s, vocalist Leon Thomas was The Man, forging new inroads for jazz singers. A bluesy baritone straight outta Joe Williams, Thomas’ style radically changed during his stint with Pharoah Sanders. Trance-deep within the multi-layered Afro-Indo-improvisational raptures of Sander’s cipher, the vocalist began to sing with shamanistic tongues-pygmy-like yodel ululations, melismatic flights of scat, tonally off-beat phrasing-as spiritually exalted as they were sensuously earthy. His vocal on Pharoah’s “The Creator Has a Master Plan” is an era high point. A long-overdue re-evaluation of Thomas’ oeuvre, Anthology is culled from four solo albums and three guest spots with Pharoah and Louis Hayes. From the estactic Southside Chicago Blues shouts of “C.C. Rider” to the finger-snapping Harlem/Yangtse River R&B croon of “China Doll” to “Shape Your Mind to Die”‘s proto-acid-jazz bop laconism, Leon Thomas’ musical vision is as fresh today as it was some two decades ago.
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