Babatunde Lea presents Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas

After Yoshi’s celebrates St. Paddy’s Day with the unlikely Gil-Scott Heron on Mar 16th & 17th, another unique event comes to town the next night. Master Percussionist Babatunde Lea brings an all-star jazz virtuoso quintet feat. vocalist Dwight Trible, saxophonist Ernie Watts, pianist/vocalist Patrice Rushen & bassist Gary Brown to town.

The night of March 18th promises to be a musical meeting of the minds @ SF’s Yoshi’s when these 5 veterans hit the stage to celebrate their new CD release ‘Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas’. The album was recorded right here in the Bay Area live at Yoshi’s in 2008 and is a 2 disc tribute to the late ‘spiritual bop’ vocalist Leon Thomas who passed in 1999.

To read more about the lineup, download a sample mp3, see a video etc, and show times & details read more here @ the complete entry

If you’ve ever heard 1969’s epic track “The Creator Has a Master Plan” that Thomas co-wrote with saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, you’d know the singer I’m talking about. Thomas was close to Babatunde Lea and is probably best known for his stint with Pharoah Saunders, but he also sang with Carlos Santana and Freddie Hubbard’s bands.

The vocal sound of Leon Thomas, who as Lea says, “colored outside the lines” with his voice, was a distinctive and unique presence in 70’s jazz. Thomas, who also toured as Santana’s vocalist in the early 70’s, had solo albums out on Bob Thiele’s infamous Flying Dutchman label, and employed techniques that took from American Indian and African vocal traditions, and was even called a jazz “yodeler”.

According to biographer Gary Graff, Lea’s heartfelt tribute was a decade in the making. He brought in Saxophonist Ernie Watts, whom he’d met in 2002 while playing in Bill Cosby’s ‘Cos of Good Music’ ensemble at a Playboy Jazz Festival. Pianist/singer Patrice Rushen is an associate from LA whom Lea had long wished to record with, while bassist Gary Brown was an old Bay Area friend with whom Lea had played with for nearly 30 years. The lynch pin, for Umbo Weti, though, is vocalist Dwight Trible, whose voice and delivery “just screams Leon Thomas,” according to Lea, and who worked with Lea on a recorded suite and soundscape for the opening of San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD). “It was a no-brainer to bring Dwight in for Umbo Weti because, his sound comes directly out of Leon and all that innovation Leon was doing.”

“My idea was to have this group that would have the spirit be able to go wherever the muse would take us,” Lea explains. “Basically, all I was asking everybody to do was play. A lot of times now things are so arranged and over-produced — throw a 16-bar solo there, an eight-bar solo here and keep it under six minutes…I wanted people to do it like Pharoah and Leon used to do it. They used to “play,” and if some of the stuff went 12 minutes, 15 minutes, longer, then fine.

Here’s a video about the new album

Download their version of John Lee Hooker’s ‘Boom Boom’

Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon ThomasBabatunde Lea
“Boom Boom” (mp3)
from “Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas”
(Motema Music)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album

To hear additional previews or purchase the mp3 or CD of the music visit Amazon here.

Show is $15 in adv, $20 @ Door
Thursday March 18, 2010 at 8PM
Yoshi’s, San Francisco
1330 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA
Babatunde Lea Yoshi's Concert Event Flyer 2010

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