Leon Thomas

Genres: Jazz

Biography

Amos Leone Thomas, 4 October 1937, East St. Louis, Illinois, USA, d. 8 May 1999, New York City, New York, USA. Thomas studied music at Tennessee State University but he had already started singing, sitting in with the band of Armando Peraza (congas) and bands including Jimmy Forrest and Grant Green. During these early years he had been particularly inspired by seeing John Coltrane playing with Miles Davis. In 1959 Thomas moved to New York and sang in Apollo shows with Dakota Staton and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers among others. In 1961 he joined Count Basie’s Orchestra and only left when he was inducted into the army. When he was discharged he worked with Pharoah Sanders, with whom he was free to develop the more unusual elements of his style; in particular, the ‘yodelling’ he says was derived from the singing of Congo pygmies. It was most apparent at this stage that he saw music as social commentary: ‘You just have to be more than an...

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