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Amos Leone Thomas, Jr. 
Leon Thomas
 Leukemia
May 8, 1999
Age 61
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 NY TIMES
 Leon Thomas, 61, Jazz Singer Known for 'Yodel'

          By BEN RATLIFF

Leon Thomas, a jazz singer known for his bellowing glottal-stop style in free jazz of the 1970's, died on Saturday at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx. He was 61 and lived in the Bronx. 

The cause was heart failure as a result of leukemia, Karen Dagneau, his tour manager, said. 

Thomas, who was born in East St. Louis, Ill., and studied music at Tennessee State University, moved to New York in 1958. With his stout tenor voice, he worked as a straight blues-jazz singer, performing with Count Basie and Mary Lou Williams in the mid-60's. But by then he had also begun to spend time with young jazz musicians, like Randy Weston and Pharoah Sanders, who were looking to Africa, the East and meditation for musical material. 

Onstage with Sanders in the late 60's Thomas developed his ululating singing style, which has been compared to African pygmy and American Indian singing techniques, and which he later called "soularphone." He believed that his ancestors had given him his elastic throat articulation, he said, and henceforth always used it. 

Pharoah Sanders tracks like "The Creator Has a Master Plan" from 1969 and "Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum Allah" from 1970 were full of Thomas's wordless yodeling over band vamps. 

This kind of spiritual African-tinged soul-jazz has become known as "kosmigroov." 

After working with Sanders and making some of his own albums for the Flying Dutchman label, he spent two years with the band Santana. 

In the last few years he often sang at the Lenox Lounge in Harlem. 

Thomas is survived by a son, Amos, of the Bronx, and a brother, Curtis of St. Louis. 

 
From Leon Thomas Site
 
It is with profound grief and sadness that I report that LeonThomas passed on this morning, May 8, 1999. Having been suffering from Leukemia, he died of heart failure the morning after singing a show in Brooklyn, a show that by all reports was a fine example of his work. Check back here for information regarding memorial and funeral plans when they are announced; light a candle with prayers for him, his family and friends. I will miss him deeply; his voice will never be forgotten. ~ISHorst@aol.com
 
 
 
       
 

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Leon Thomas (who changed his name to Leone in 1974) made his mark in 1969, singing "The Creator Has A Master Plan" with Pharoah Sanders and showing that even avant-garde jazz can become popular under some circumstances. A fairly conventional singer, the most unusual aspect to Thomas is that he often breaks out into yodelling in the middle of a vocal, a device since utilized occasionally by James Moody. Thomas, whose early associates included Grant Green, Jimmy Forrest and Hank Crawford, studied music for two years at Tennessee State University. He moved to New York in 1958, toured with a show sponsored by the Apollo Theater, had two largely unrecorded stints with Count Basie (1961 and 1964-65) and performed with such jazz artists as Mary Lou Williams, Randy Weston, Rahsaan Roland Kirk and later on Oliver Nelson. After recording "The Creator Has A Master Plan" in 1969 (once under his own name with the better-known version being on Sanders' Karma), Thomas seemed on the verge of stardom.   

However, since then his career has faltered and he still remains an underground figure. As a leader, Leon Thomas has recorded for Flying Dutchman, Blues Time, Mega, the Italian Palcoscenico label (in 1979 with Freddie Hubbard's group), as the leader of a blues-oriented band for Portrait (1988) and more recently for Mapleshade. He has also appeared as a sideman in many situations including on a Louis Armstrong 1970 record and with Carlos Santana (who he worked with in 1971). -- 
 Scott Yanow, All-Music Guide

 
 
  
 
 

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