Music Reviews

Nucleus with Leon Thomas

Live 1970



Formats available: Vinyl

Never before released this was made at the Montreux Jazz Festival where Nucleus won first prize this finds the British fusion pioneers fronted by jazz vocalist Leon Thomas. Thomas was a very distinctive singer with an ululating style that was brought to the jazz world’s attention with the The Creator Has A Master Plan recorded with Pharoah Saunders. The tune, based on the Love Supreme riff, is played with considerable sophistication by Nucleus, a band that was at the forefront of the jazz rock movement, a movement whose birth is oft credited to Miles Davis but which actually had a wider base and not all of it in the US.  Headed up by trumpet player Ian Carr, in this its first iteration it features Chris Spedding on guitar, Karl Jenkins on oboe and piano and Brian Smith on soprano and tenor sax plus flute.

Thomas’ singing gives this live performance a distinctly bluesy vibe, while a jazz singer he combined a social consciousness with considerable vocal dexterity, as ever there is more to him than the hit would suggest and it’s all good. Spedding shines as well, mainly because the guitar is placed up front in the mix and seems to get a greater share of lead slots than most, the propulsive energy of drummer John Marshall is excellent as is the oboe playing for that matter. The recording is top notch for its time and has plenty of ambiance, you can almost hear the steam rising off the band as they work to deliver as much intensity as they can without overpowering the vocals. Rather special, and it’s on Gearbox.

Jason Kennedy

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