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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke




With Oliver Nelson - Recorded Live At The Berlin Philharmonic Hall

RCA VICTOR Gold Series 09026638772

Leon Thomas -vocals and percussion. African Wood Flute (2&5) Oliver Nelson -Alto Sax (1-4) Arthur Sterling-Piano (1-4) Guenter Lenz-Bass (1-4) Lex Humphries-Drums (1-4) Sonny Morgan -Congas (1-4) Percussion (6) Harold "Jazzbo" Alexander-Flute (6) Lonnie Liston Smith - Piano (6) Jimmy Phillips- Bass (6) Alvin Queen - Drums (6) Richard "Pablo" Landrum - Percussion (6)

Tracks 1-5 Recorded November 6, 1970 at Philharmonic Hall, Berlin.
Track 6 Recorded March 15, 1970 at Filmore East, New York City.

1. Straight, No Chaser
2. Medley:
Pharoah's Tune
3. Umbo Well
4. The Creator Has A Master Plan - Peace
5. Oo-Wee!! Hindewe
6. Damn Nam ( Ain't Going To Vietnam)

"Leon Thomas in Berlin" is an excellent example of the work of this almost forgotten vocalist. Thomas was very much a maverick in terms of his singing style, his use of the yodel and other effects turned his voice very much into another frontline musical instrument in much the same manner as scat was used by earlier singers . The lasting impression given by this is of a highly Afro - American form of the idiom which was much in fashion in the late 60's and early 70's. In many ways it is a great pity that this vibrant music has fallen so far from grace to be replaced by the mainstream conservatism that is so omni-present in a great deal of the performances which define Jazz at the present time.
One of the real treats on this disc is the playing of Oliver Nelson on alto saxophone. His solos are absolutely blistering and serve as a reminder of why he was so at ease with as avant- garde and forceful a player as Eric Dolphy on many of the sessions under his own name . His performances here can only be described as exuberant and obviously act as a spur to drive Thomas in his improvised sections.
The balance of the material is impeccable - all of the tunes are written by Thomas with the exception of "Straight No Chaser". Ronnie Scott is the master of ceremonies and after his introduction it is right into a highly swinging version of the Monk tune with imaginative vocalise from Thomas and a beautiful angular solo from Nelson . "Echoes " must be one of the most memorable of Thomas' tunes and I never tire of hearing "The Creator Has A Master Plan" - the rendition here is particularly fine .
The rhythm section on this concert is superb and there are some memorable solos from Arthur Sterling on piano . "Pharoah's Tune " has a long introduction from Thomas which is in the form of a poetic recitation which is almost an insight into the "Rap" style of the future.
This is a real gem of a re-release and I feel sure that it will become a favourite of anyone who is prepared to give this highly charged original music a chance.

Dick Stafford


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