Leon Foster Thomas – Metamorphosis

Perhaps there’s a subconscious connection between Leon Foster Thomas and the late Muhammad Ali. They hit hard, hit fast and keep moving. Thomas’ new recording, Metamorphosis (Ropeadope Records, 2016) is loaded with punches, counterpunches and poetry in motion.

Thomas plays steel pan and percussion. Accompanying him are Martin Bejerano, piano; Kurt Hengstebeck, upright and electric bass; Michael “Mike” Piolet, drums; Jean Caze, trumpet; Daivd Palma, tenor sax and flute; Fernando Ulibarri, guitar; John Daversa, trumpet and electronic valve instrument; and Sammy Figueroa, percussion.

Thomas lights you up from the first note. “Kai – Fusion” has a dynamic opening, blending the pan and horns before they give way to a bass-led groove, complemented by the drums. The melody, if any identifiable phrase can be called this, is a series of overlapping riffs with some combination of guitar, pan and horns out front while the others counteract. Many of these are high-speed passes. Things settle down some, and Palma takes over. Piano, bass and drums mix it up in the background, while the tenor goes on an adventurous jaunt. Upon a mood change, the guitar joins in to set up the solo’s climax. Things mellow a bit when it’s Thomas’ turn. But he, too, cranks up the heat as he gets deeper into the groove. As a listener, you might be blown away by the leader’s skill, but don’t get too entranced. You might miss something. Caze and Ulibarri get their moments to shine as well.

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