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Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas

Babatunde Lea

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Reseña de álbum

Vocalist Leon Thomas was a close partner to saxophonist Pharoah Sanders in the late '60s and early '70s, having sung "The Creator Has a Master Plan" on 1969's Karma and "Prince of Peace" on Izipho Zam the same year. In so doing (and in his later work as a solo artist, particularly the 1973 album Blues and the Soulful Truth), he blended blues, R&B, gospel, soul, jazz, and yodeling (!) into a cohesive and utterly recognizable style that meshed quite well with jazz's turn toward ecstatic spiritualism in the wake of John Coltrane's and Albert Ayler's premature deaths. He also worked with Carlos Santana and many others. On this double live disc, Bay Area drummer and percussionist Babatunde Lea, who backed Thomas in the early '70s, is joined by saxophonist Ernie Watts (of Charlie Haden's Quartet West), keyboardist/vocalist Patrice Rushen, and vocalist Dwight Trible to pay tribute to his former boss. The arrangements have the same churning, R&B-meets-jazz groove that the best of Thomas' and Sanders' work from the late '60s had, Watts' saxophone in particular attaining ecstatic heights without devolving into raucous shrieks. Rushen's piano solos demonstrate a fluidity that those only familiar with her R&B hits like "Forget Me Nots" might find surprising. Trible's vocals are Thomas-esque in the best way — his voice is deep and rich, and even if some songs, like Coltrane's "Cousin Mary," didn't need the excessively literal and cheesy lyrics he lays down, the versions of "Prince of Peace," "The Creator Has a Master Plan," and "Let the Rain Fall on Me" are beautiful and soulful. The deep love Babatunde Lea felt, and obviously still feels, for Leon Thomas and the music they made together comes through on every note of this disc.

Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas, Babatunde Lea
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