Leon Foster Thomas
If you are tired of the same old instrumentation in jazz bands, let me introduce you to Leon Foster Thomas. Raised in Trinidad and Tobago, Thomas tears the steel pan away from its calypso roots and transports it firmly into the realm of jazz. Thomas, an absolute virtuoso on his unusual instrument, has lent his talents to Hugh Masekela, Kevin Mahogany, Cyril Neville, and many others. Now, he's assembled his own powerhouse ensemble, and "Metamorphosis" should go a long way toward putting him on the map.
His group boasts John Daversa on trumpet and electric valve instrument; Sammy Figueroa, percussion; Martin Bejerano, piano; Kurt Hengstebeck, bass; Michael Piolet, drums; Jean Caze, trumpet; David Palma, saxophone and flute; and Fernando Ulibarri, guitar. Together, they build a strong foundation with an occasional stand-out solo. But it is Thomas's steel pan ringing through that makes this album one of the most unique jazz records I've ever heard. Thomas is also an excellent composer, contributing nine wonderful original tunes. The one cover is a gorgeous take on the Procol Harum classic, "A Whiter Shade of Pale."