SPIRITS KNOWN AND UNKNOWN
New Vocal Frontiers
RCA Victor Gold
1 -9: Leon Thomas - vocal, percussion; James Spaulding - flute, alto
saxophone; Lonnie Liston Smith - piano; Richard Davis, Cecil McBee
- bass; Roy Haynes - drums; Richard Landrum - bongos.
3&4 Add Leon Thomas - African wood flute.
6, 8&9 Add Pharoah Sanders - tenor saxophone.
10 - 18: Leon Thomas - vocal; Alberto Socarras - flute; Lester Merkin,
Toots Mondello, Paul Ricci, Romeo Penque, Stan Webb - reeds; Vernon
Brown, Morton Bullman, Tommy Mitchell, Chauncey Welsh - trombone;
Bernie Leighton - piano; Danny Perri, Artie Ryerson - guitar; Abie
Baker - bass; Cliff Leeman - drums; Jala Divigard, Miriam Workman,
Constance Treadwell, Helen Steiff, Pete Steiff, Bob McCulloh, Lou
Herst, Lee Hale - vocal.
Tracks 1-9 recorded October 21 or 22, 1969 in New York City
Tracks 10-18 recorded November 12, 1958 at RCA Recording Studios,
New York City.
Tracks 10-18 are previously unissued.
1. The Creator Has a Master Plan ( Peace)
4. Song for My Father
5.Damn Nam ( Ain't Goin' to Vietnam )
6. Malcolm's Gone
7. Let the Rain Fall on Me
8. Um, Um, Um
9. A Night in Tunisia
10. Take the "A" Train
15. Willow Weep for Me
17. If it Didn't Hurt So Much
" The voice projection of the lyrics is good and full, and leads
to a wordless yodel sounding not unlike an American Indian call -
the moaning of spirits known and unknown " - this from the liner
notes describing Leon Thomas' singing on the album "Karma "
by Pharoah Sanders.
Leon Thomas along with James Spaulding, who is the principle soloist
on many of the first nine tracks on this release, is one of the sadly
forgotten and neglected musicians in Jazz. Thomas was a ground breaking
vocalist as the music featured here will clearly reveal. He worked
with such as Sanders, Booker Ervin, Randy Weston and Roland Kirk before
he had records released under his own name and went on to record with
Oliver Nelson and Johnny Hodges around the time of this disc ( 1969
). His style of singing was highly unusual, blending Jazz, Blues and
a form of yodelling ( heard in African music and in the vocalising
of Eddie Harris ) which he blended to great effect to produce a sound
peculiar to him.
Perhaps the most well known of his compositions is "The Creator
Has A Master Plan " which was a collaboration with Pharoah Sanders
. It is a mesmeric late 60's piece typical of its time and on this
version has some highly effective flute playing from Spaulding. "One
" is another Thomas composition -this time at a very bright swinging
tempo with a scorching alto saxophone solo from Spaulding." Echoes"
is a slow Jazz Waltz, heavy on the yodel style singing and with flute
from Spaulding and African flute from Thomas . "Damn Nam "
and "Malcolm's Gone " are very much reflections of their
era, but they have stood the test of time. The Horace Silver tune
"Song For My Father " is given a rhythmic and sensitive
rendition and " Tunisia " is yet another worthy version
of this classic.
Pharoah Sanders plays on three of the tracks but the real standout
performer is James Spaulding. I heard Spaulding with the David Murray
Octet and he was obviously held in some awe by the other musicians
- he is one of Jazz's many well kept secrets both on alto and flute.
The last nine tracks are from a much earlier unreleased RCA big band
session under Thomas' name and, quite honestly , this issue does not
gain anything with their inclusion . Thomas had not achieved his mature
style at this point in time and they are just journeyman versions
of the standard repertoire. However, this disc is well worth a listen
for the tracks that comprised the original " Spirits Known And
Unknown " album.