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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 was that he often broke 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 1964-1965), 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, his career faltered and he remained an underground figure. As a leader, Leon Thomas 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 for Mapleshade. He 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). Thomas died of heart failure on May 8, 1999. ~ Scott Yanow
Amos Leone Thomas
04 October 1937 in East St. Louis, IL