Leon Thomas

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Amos Leon Thomas, Jr. (October 4, 1937 – May 8, 1999) was an American avant-garde jazz singer from East St. Louis, Illinois.


Thomas studied music at Tennessee State University. In the 1960s he was a vocalist for Count Basie, among others.

In 1969, he released his first solo album for Bob Thiele's Flying Dutchman label. Thomas is best known for his work with Pharoah Sanders, particularly the 1969 song "The Creator Has a Master Plan" from Sanders' Karma album. Thomas's most distinctive device was that he often broke out into yodeling in the middle of a vocal. This style has influenced singers James Moody, Tim Buckley and Bobby McFerrin, among others. He said in an interview that he developed this style after he fell and broke his teeth before an important show. Some of the vocal style is classified as 'jive singing'. (Ref: Leon Thomas Blues Band album).

Thomas toured and recorded as a member of the band Santana in 1973.[1] He changed his name to Leone in 1974 because of an interest he had in numerology at the time. He did not legally change his name and he reverted to Leon shortly thereafter.

Thomas died of heart failure on May 8, 1999. He was largely forgotten until a resurgence of interest in soul jazz. Several of his tracks have been sampled in hip-hop and downtempo records.


As leader[edit]

  • Spirits Known and Unknown (Flying Dutchman, 1969)
  • The Leon Thomas Album (Flying Dutchman, 1970)
  • Super Black Blues Vol. 2 (BluesTime, 1970)
  • Blues and the Soulful Truth (Flying Dutchman, 1972)
  • Full Circle (Flying Dutchman, 1973)
  • Gold Sunrise on Magic Mountain (live) (Flying Dutchman, 1971)
  • Live in Berlin with Oliver Nelson (Flying Dutchman, 1971)
  • The Leon Thomas Blues Band (Portrait, 1988)
  • A Piece of Cake (Palcoscenico)

As sideman[edit]

With Count Basie and His Orchestra

With Louis Hayes

With Johnny Hodges

With Dave Liebman

With Pharoah Sanders

With Santana

With Archie Shepp

With Cedar Walton


  1. ^ Jazzsupreme Archived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]