“He's a phenomenal talent, and a brilliant album, really, really breaks the mold”
— Gilles Peterson
"Like Sitek’s work, “Karate Champ” is pretty awesome. It is a song that will warm your soul, put a smile on your face, and just make you feel good about life. For that matter, this song is about celebrating life and taking chances."
Ben Yung, thereview.ca, 8/09/2016
"While his performance credits stretch back more than ten years for the likes of Dennis Ferrer, Tiombe Lockhart and Soulive, Leron Thomas’ own solo productions are only just making their way into the light now. After the .. Take It LP, he made the leap to our favorite French jazz heads Heavenly Sweetness with the wonderful Cliquish LP. With a raw, stripped-down approach to classic funk, jazz and R&B, it would be hard for anyone to ignore this record when it gets an airing. It’s very much in the vein of the Heavenly Sweetness commitment to furthering the cause of jazz-influenced traditions, making it both comfortable and engaging as a project for the studio."
"Native of jazz, demolisher of shackles, the Texan Leron Thomas has imposed his name in Black American Music by breaking the walls: Jazz trumpeter, a follower of funk grooves, talk over like Gil Scott-Heron, the man finely mixing references. For this occasion we deliver you an exclusive live studio recording by Findspire.
The Heavenly Sweetness protégé develops an esthete concert, which will be listened to better than ever in a sofa, leather of course, the evening cocktail or mocktail in hand. Yes, or even better, you can move to Dynamo in Pantin, to attend his show for the jazz festival Banlieues Bleues. At a time when Kamasi Washington has completely rehabilitated the genre, it seems good to outfit a (re)update on this side of the music today. Just see."
Charles Cros, villaschweppes.com 18/02/16 (translated from French)
"Leron Thomas is Not a Part of Your Clique - Review : 9/10.
Leron Thomas is truly an original voice in the music world and "Cliquish" refuses to conform to any traditional expectations. The most impressive aspect of the album, though, there is never a moment when Thomas loses the audience, which is a testament to his charisma and huge talent.
It’s easy to think of the music industry like a high school cafeteria, with the population divided into various cliques. There are jocks, nerds, emo kids, artsy kids, and more. While these groups, both in high school and the music world, often give people a sense of belonging and shared experience, they contribute to the population’s compartmentalization, erecting invisible walls between people. Every once in a while, though, someone comes along who doesn’t fit into any one category, leaving that rigid mentality behind. Trumpeter Leron Thomas is a musician who makes it very clear through his music and words that he is not part of anyone’s clique. His album Cliquish takes on a life of its own by incorporating influences from all across the music spectrum, making it a brilliantly unpredictable hour of music.
The album’s first song “Extrospection” creeps into the ear from nothingness and quickly establishes an ominous vibe with a pulsing synth that tells us that something big is coming. The N.Y.C.-based Thomas brings a contrastingly warm, hopeful trumpet tune over the marching synth that showcases his deft touch with melody and dense harmonies. “Extrospection” effectively establishes Thomas’ sense of originality and unpredictability with his music, without sacrificing any of the accessibility.
If “Extrospection” is the introduction to Thomas’ sound and concepts on Cliquish, the follow-up track that shares the album’s name is its mission statement. While the first track is somewhat mysterious and foreboding, the second dives deep into the grittiness of groove. Beginning with a righteous bass line, the track contains many of the elements that comprise Thomas’ sound. The phrasing is unusual but never loses the funk, there is a signature melody in the guitar and synth, and Thomas’ vocals on the track are raw and uncompromisingly honest. There’s a particular phrase that returns over and over again in the song which is, “I’m so glad / I’m not a part of your clique / I’m not a part of your clique, bitch.” The track acts as a not-so-subtle affirmation of Thomas’ unwillingness to cater to anyone else’s expectations. Even though his words are very repetitive, his point is made, and it’s a strong one.
Cliquish continues its rampage of deep grooves with “Role Play,” which features funk titans Simon Mavin and Paul Bender of Hiatus Kaiyote on keys and synth bass respectively, as well as vocal virtuoso Bilal. The song’s composition is like a journey, with its initial head-nodding, thumping bass line leading to its dreamy chorus and climactic ending. Thomas trades verses with Bilal to create a message of undeniable sensuality and a yearning for an expanding world of romance. In the chorus, they draw the lover in with the words, “I love the way you are, girl do your thing / You’re makin’ me smile, just like a breath of Spring / and there is much respect but a little role play won’t hurt your pride / if it’s real as you say.” Thomas is creative with his song forms, blurring the traditional lines between verse, chorus, bridge, etc. Even though the aforementioned phrase appears to be a chorus, Thomas follows it with the mantra-like phrases, “I know you love yourself but a little role play won’t hurt your pride” and “You’ve got to play a role” that build toward the track’s end.
One of the more musically adventurous tracks on Cliquish is the warm, nostalgic “Mandy Jo.” Its opening moments are occupied by the sounds of birds chirping, giving a definite sense of optimism. The instrumentation is stripped down more than at any other moment on the album, with just bass and guitar supporting Thomas’ vocals for much of the duration. As Thomas describes long lost love while fluctuating between the repeating vocal melody and a more spoken word delivery. The accompaniment on the track gradually builds toward the ending, with a new riff in the bass and guitar as well as swelling drums and synth lines sliding into the mix.
The lone cover of the set is the Jan Hammer song, “Don’t You Know,” which couples a driving synth groove with Thomas’ angular vocal melodies. While the song’s beat and lyrics are on the more straightforward end of Thomas’ spectrum, he infuses the track with a good dose of his own musical flair. About halfway through the song, the music breaks down and reassembles around a more dark, dense groove in three. The section is riddled with more riffs and also finds Thomas let loose on his trumpet. Coming out of the breakdown is a bass solo that introduces yet another groove. So while the track began as a loyal nod to Hammer’s original, it seems as though Thomas was not satisfied with just that, and felt the need to take the song in different, new directions. These elements, along with the lack of a return to the original feel, all contribute to the idea that Thomas doesn’t follow traditional musical rules.
In the album’s bookend “Introspection,” Thomas mirrors the opening track with another instrumental offering, but this time solely with the trumpet. While the former contained a fully realized instrumentation, here Thomas relies only on his horn and some overdubbing to make his point. He builds layers of his Harmon-muted trumpet that contain harmonic pads, melodies, and bubbly textural playing that swell to a climax before dropping out again and then cutting out somewhat abruptly at the end.
It is abundantly clear from Cliquish that Leron Thomas has the chops to play pretty much any music he might choose. The choice he has made, however, has led him to stray from traditional paths in favor of a sound aesthetic unlike any other, and the music world is better off for it. If every musician subscribed to the idea of music as a bunch of separate cliques, the art would never grow, particularly in the ever-evolving world of jazz and its offshoots. Leron Thomas, while perhaps not a household name yet, has certainly done his part in carving out a piece of the music world that is all his own."
Evan Crandell, 24ourmusic.net 13/12/15
"My favorite is the discovery of singer and North American trumpeter "Leron Thomas," which now joins the family Heavenly Sweetness (Blundetto,
Anthony Joseph, Guts ...). His EP titled Man Funk is a single from the Guts album "Hip Hop After-All", a prelude to his solo album "Cliquish" released in October 2015 with the same label. His early influences come from jazz. He now offers an exploration of different styles combining funk, hip-hop, rock and electro, all handled with boldness and delicacy. His path has crossed those of Bilal, Lauryn Hill, Roy Hargrove, Zara McFarlane or Meshelle Ndegeocello, and has given rise to fruitful collaborations in the studio and on stage.
Listening to this album is an explosion of amazing sensations, perilous, mixing swing and intoxicating groove. Leron Thomas is rooted in his time and aware of its roots, suggested by his manifested style, eclectic, full of subtlety. It plunges us into a world deliberately unclassifiable, both solar and deep."
Marie-Noelle, afrozap.com, 11/12/15 (Translated from French)
"Something pretty special here. Very different album, this one. A star is born, methinks. Left field sound, and impossible to label this genre.
Texan born, New York based trumpeter and singer Leron Thomas. His ninth self-produced independent solo album, recorded between New York and Paris.
Leron has worked with Bilal, Jason Moran, Meshell Ndegeocello and Zara McFarlane. He was the vocal on Zara's "Angie La La".
Unique voice, sweet, sweet horn talents with huge Miles D influences as a player. Not fair to stick him on the jazz/soul/funk shelf, as he is much about experimentation and random stuff as he is sitting neatly within precise genres. The CD has a kind of George Clinton bonkers, but brilliant vibe at its core. Touches of Robert Glasper too maybe.I literally had to stop what I was doing to sit down and soak this album up. It's like nothing else out there right now. Funky soul and driving bass lines meet hard indie rock riffs and electro pop sci-fi weirdness. 11 self-penned cuts and a Jan Hammer cover. Guests included Bilal, Simon Mavin from Austrlalian Grammy nominated soul outfit Hiatus Kayiote and Guts, the acclaimed French beat maker and producer - and co-founder of 90's hip-hop band Alliance Ethnik.
More of an experience than just another album. Leron Thomas is BIG underground they tell me. Not the casee for much longer. "Cliquish" is gonna blow up like a mother, you see. Cliquish = Five stars"
Blues & Soul Magazine, London 1/12/15
"Everyone knows the story of the funk, surely. You see, the Funk is a living creature. It’s ’bout the size of a medicine ball, but covered in teats. It came from another planet, and landed on Bootsy Collins’s house. Back then Bootsy was just a simple farmer. But he took one look at all of those mauve titties and he lost his mind. He began to milk the Funk. Made himself a Funk shake. Began to feel fizzy inside. He found he could see ’round corners. Suddenly, he passed out. But when he came to, baby, he was slapping a bass guitar fast and loose like some kind of delirious, funky priest.
Two months later, he was world-famous with his band, Parliament, and everybody wanted a piece of the Funk: Rick Wakeman, even the Bee Gees. One day, Parliament was traveling on the mothership, fooling around with the Funk, when George Clinton kicked the Funk clean overboard. That was July the Second, 1979, the Day the Funk died.
On the fifth of November, at a jazz cafe down an alleyway in Camden Town, we found that juicy ball of funk again. The funk has obviously been around and studying other floating genres. The man who found it is Leron Thomas, and he’s truly sucked on those funky teats.
Leron Thomas, a man. A man born in Houston Texas but 36 years ago. He studied music, composing and the trumpet for most of his life. He spent most of his career being a serious and well acclaimed jazz musician in New York. Working with the likes of Bilal (featured on this new album), Roy Hargrove, Robert Glasper, Zara McFarlane, Marcus Strickland and many others.
It’s no wonder, however, that a man with an ear for many genres has broken out of that mould, and for the past few years has been collaborating with Guts. Guts, a large live funk band, may be lesser known in the UK but have been peddling their brand of smooth sun electro funk and hip hop through the streets of Paris and further a field with style.
Guts started the gig and the band overwhelms the little stage. More participants than a bingo hall. Each one with their own brand of understated cool. Tanya Morgan and Florian Pelissier step in and out, Leron is playing trumpet. It goes from straight up funk to hip hop and back. Even a moment of Fugees sampling. These guys have clearly been students of fun, now they are preachers.
So then Leron makes an exit. The lights go down. The band put on their neon specs and it’s time to get serious.
The wobbly sounds of a slapping bass. Beoooow. “SO GLAD… IM NOT A PART OF YOUR CLIQUE BITCH”
Leron has started. The title track off his album hits – and it’s just sick. I look at the person next to me and she smiles…our knowing look said “this is the definition of cool.” It is.
Leron’s new album is more reflective of some straight up funk infused with jazz, more so than the eerie electro sounds more familiar to those who have followed his solo stuff in the past few years. I do hope he continues with these badass videos though [Blush official music video] …For those interested in more of that, check out “appear to stack”, “fashion”, “blush” and “take it”. Tracks like “don’t you know” and “role play” ft. Bilal have more of this eerie vibe and the band nail them.
Then comes my favourite track in the world right now. ‘Mandy Jo’. If this guy ever gets the recognition he deserves, this should be one of those songs that in years will remind us all of this time and place we are in now, together. ‘Mandy Jo’ is a song about all those long lost loves we see on our Facebook threads. Popping up in our threads with their new lives. Our wives in parallel universes. The ones that had they only agreed to bend their ways, accept ours, couldabeen, wouldabeen, shouldabeen. It’s about our lives, wondering, wandering. “I’ve wondered myself around the world as if i was in search of something from the outside looking in it looked like i was escaping something but more to the point, brother, i was trying to reckon with something…. ….. this energy”
Leron Thomas has lived a life. Its in his low gravitas-heavy voice and big kid smile. The song builds and builds. Bass player and drummer in tow. Builds until Leron breaks out in gospel. “IIIII am the saviour… IIIII am the saviour” – beautiful. And yes Leron, you are.
Here’s the song, [Mandy Jo via youtube] but if your listening to it for the first time, don’t do yourself an injustice. Please. Listen. To. It. And. Listen to it. Fucking. Loud.
Leron’s set ends in keeping the tempo high, and then Guts come back out and all the others. Rappers, soul singers, and Leron with his beautiful trumpet skills.
The party goes on. Guts ask us all to sing. And everybody sang. Everybody sang."
Del Newman, aaa.music.co.uk, 10/11/15
"Genre-bending American trumpeter and vocalist Leron Thomas has been popping up all over the Jazz underground of late, guesting on projects by the likes of Bilal, Jason Moran and Zara McFarlane. This album shows why. Wildly varied, often fabulously off-the-wall, it boings from the space-age electro-pop of Jan Hammer's Don't You Know to original compositions pulsing with funk, rock and future soul. Bilal returns favor on Role Play, an ode to good times underpinned by thudding bass and the astral keyboard of Simon Mavin from cult Aussie collective Hiatus Kaiyote. Throughout, horn lines are warm, sometimes deep and swinging; vocals are sweet yet powerful. Bold sonic twists and u-turns frequently make for challenging listening. An aural Rubik's Cube."
Jane Cornwell, The Evening Standard, 11/6/15
"An excellent full length album from the up-and-coming Leron Thomas – an artist who both sings and plays trumpet, then adds in lots of compelling sounds to the mix alongside those two elements! The album may well be Leron's best work to date – and really focuses in on the best qualities that make him so unique – that partly-cosmic, partly-earthy approach that shifts easily throughout the record, often in the course of a single track – almost as if Thomas is stepping quickly in space to find a special sound that's all his own! Bass is pretty heavy at the bottom of most numbers – often distorted, and seeming to pull Leron's vocals into the mix – but the trumpet can soar out with these redemptive qualities that really give the record a lot of spirit, alongside a lot more bass, guitar, and keyboards. Titles include "Cliquish", "Extrospection", "Snicka Bar", "Mandy Jo", "Calm Down", "Stride", "Don't You Know", "Victorian Walls", and "Role Play".
"It's been quite a while since American jazz musicians made pilgrimages in streams to Paris, there to secure their share of the European enthusiasm for the American originators. Around 50 years after Donald Byrd also the end thirties Leron Thomas in the footsteps of his instrumental project, "Cliquish" is already his tenth album.
Where: Jazz? - The fact that Thomas undoubtedly comes from the world of improvisation and standards, can be given its exuberant harmony and melody, and particularly language that one can hardly ignore in "Park", "Stride" and "Calm Down". Nevertheless, there are probably only a few Thomas would sort into the jazz shelf from "Cliquish". Especially when it comes to Leron Thomas the trumpeter - with very few exceptions there is virtually no placement on the album. For a change, the musician performs his best three-member and more than anything else oriented Groove rhythm section with its rather distinctive organ.
Apropos: Unmistakable. In addition to Thomas' voice, it is especially Tim Becherand's Bass and the production of Fabrice Franck Henri aka Guts, that push "Cliquish" as a widely recognizable profile. One that leans towards Lonnie Liston Smith's "A Chance For Peace", to Johnny Guitar Watson Hippie Funk and draw reference to R'n'B innovators like Georgia Anne Muldrow, Dudley Perkins and Thundercat recollections. It should be anything but a coincidence that on the "Role Play" single Thomas has Bilal to support. And with songs like "Victorian Walls" and "Mandy Jo" he commemorates his long-standing connection to the live R'n'B scene as an important source of inspiration. The author of the almost punky tracks "Snicker Bar" and "Asako" that appear as outliers would not want to argue.
With respect to the cover design - toward 80-ies squinting Thomas fits "Cliquish" in the barely existing gap between a rock and a hard place: from jazz to R'n'B, for R'n'B to jazz. Of course, deliberately. At the end, to compare with Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment leads - only that the Chance the Rapper troupe itself same destination from the Hip Hop -esque approaches. Where, how and with whom you situate Leron Thomas within the trade, the aesthetics in his hooks still prove his success as in the Jan Hammer cover "Don't You Know" - the last stretch before the "Introspection" outro. Good plate. Being courageous is rewarded. Leron Thomas - Cliquish - Heavenly Sweetness = 8/10"
Joinmusic.com, 10/30/15 (translated from German)
"Musical journeys that bring the listener with every track to another location? Perfect! Within a Song? It may end without context, destroy the red thread, complicate the attention in atonal chaos. Leron Thomas is out there: a virtuoso of trumpet and voice, consciously faithful not only in line for a surprise within every moment, it fits into the overall sound. Thomas' music is outside of all listening experiences and meanders defined to genres such as jazz, funk and electro as well. Thanks to perfect thoughtful complexity, Cliquish is a demanding listening experience with a penchant for musical anarchic moments, with their subsequent harmonic resolution effectively more liberating."
Lisa Juttner, Popmonitor.de, 10/30/15 (translated from German)
"For your final MPFree of the week, Gilles Peterson has picked a new track from legendary genre-bending musician, Leron Thomas. ‘Calm Down’ is deconstructed jazz with an electronic lilt. Download it and savour it.
Nine albums in to a consistently unpredictable career, Leron Thomas has found a home in the similarly eclectic Heavenly Sweet Records. Recorded in Paris and New York with the label’s house band, all under the supervision of head honcho, GUTS, Cliquish finds the Texan trumpeter, vocalist, and composer at the peak of his powers."
Frank Palmer, Team Laverne bbc.co.uk 23/10/15
"Having ultimately decided on the iTunes categorization of Soul, only out of necessity. Inevitably it is the narrower choice as this is also jazz, funk, electro and pop. This corresponds to "Cliquish" exactly as the assessment, based on what Leron Thomas has built up with his previous releases. The man carefully commits himself with the house band of the label Heavenly Sweetness and the French producer Guts in which he found allies and advocates. "Cliquish" has a bunch of facets and it follows a punky "Asako" a swinging-jazzy "Park". This is followed by "Mandy Jo" follows, reminiscent of Prince and the radio by Rick James.
There twelve pieces cover a decent spectrum. It changes from jazz to soul, is sometimes rock and / or pop like "Victorian walls" that ends like a Beatles song. Even in individual genre pieces Thomas changes the genre, as in the six and a half minutes of "Don't You Know" and he does not hesitate, easy phased to slightly experimental sound ("Calm Down"). At the end Leron Thomas raises his listeners from the album with an outro, which is called "Introspection" and the trumpet choir of St. John fades as it leaves.
Not an Album for quick enjoyment, no predestined Single, probably not Airplay, but a very interesting album. And not "interesting" with raised eyebrows, but truly worth hearing and worth discovering. Even if it fits well into any category, Soul has "Cliquish" anyway."
unruhr.de 21/10/15 (translated from German)
"Taken from a new 12-track long-player, Leron Thomas continues to ascend, asserting his baritone vocal over this new release. First coming to the attention of this reviewer, belatedly, in 2013 with a sit-up-and-listen performance on Zara McFarlane's 'Angie La La', here, the Texan gives keyboardist Jan Hammer's late 70's track a stunning rendition. Turning the original into an extended journey of three parts, the ethereal melody is bolstered by Leron's assured, effortless voice as he takes it to another level, gliding along with his modal trumpet playing and into a coda of bass guitar harmonics and hi-hats. Lights-off musical escapism providing much enthusiasm for 'Cliquish', due for release on October 16 in France and globally on October 30 on the Heavenly Sweetness label out of Paris."
"Leron Thomas is big underground. Cliquish is the new recording from him and a fine demonstration of just how unclassifiable this great talent is. Here, funky soul, driving bass lines meet with hard indie rock riffs and electro pop sci-fi weirdness. Put simply, this is alternative black music that sounds like no other."
"Groove and jazz funk are the mood of the day ... A superb duo for a masterpiece of nu-soul seething tones, mid old school, mid-futuristic ... If your like us, you always go in a loop with the same smug enthusiasm like a little monument to the Man-contagious-groove-Funk. Unveiled last year at the same time by Guts and his faithful now live accomplice Leron Thomas, an outstanding jazzman also comfortable for comping and singing. Get ready to do the same with "Role Play", from the new EP of the same name by the unstoppable showman, originally from Texas, to be released September 4 by the excellent Parisian label Heavenly Sweetness, a good groove provider of soulful, jazz and funk since 2007.
"First of several tracks this afternoon from trumpeter and vocalist Leron Thomas and his new album is called "Cliquish". It's on Heavenly Sweetness Records out of France, he's based out of New York city these days. He's a phenomenal talent, and a brilliant album, really, really breaks the mold. Not necessarily what you'd expect from somebody coming from the Robert Glasper School.
.. And it was Leron Thomas. I thought I'd get straight into getting into the album "Cliquish" "Cliquish" - how can I say that? We'll have to ask Leron for the full depth of the album, he's going to be coming over to the UK very soon, we'll have a chat with him. He's played with loads of people from Erykah Badu, Charles Tolliver, Bilal's on the album, in fact I played a track with Bilal a while ago already, maybe we'll replay that one. And it's coming out in about 3 weeks time. Originally from Houston Texas. Trumpet, Saxophone, no, no saxophone. Just vocals and lots of fiddling about. I've done a few shows with him actually, last time I saw him in New York. Strong. One to check.
.. There's a film I saw recently by Spike Lee actually and it's called "She's Gotta Have It". I think it's his first official film actually after a few shorts got him going a way before "School Daze" and "Jungle Fever" and in that film "She's Gotta Have It" there's some beautiful scenes in a park where I think it's Bill Lee, Spike Lee's dad playing the bass and singling a song... And listening to Leron Thomas right now off his new album brings back that kind of New York feeling, that Brooklyn feeling. That was another track from our album of the week, an album called "Cliquish" and it was "Calm Down". Leron Thomas."
Gilles Peterson, 9/23/15, BBC Radio 6 AOTW live transcription
''Cliquish' is the latest full length release from NYC based Jazz, Funk and Soul artist Leron Thomas, due out on October 16th (via Heavenly Sweetness).
This next paragraph is usually where I would try and define the genre of this album for you, but Thomas has built a reputation over recent years as quite the improviser, something which becomes more apparent as I listen through the 12 tracks and 56 minutes of 'Cliquish'. I hear tastes of funk, jazz and rock, dashes of hip hop and R&B, and sometimes a blend of two or three genres within one track!
Not originally a singer, Thomas was persuaded to take to the mic by his regular collaborator Bilal (who also features on this record). Lucky for us he did! His style is unique and the listener first gets introduced to his story telling during the title track after chants of "I'm so glad… I'm not a part of your clique.”
More humorous story telling is found on the fun and funky "Snicka bar,” and this track along with the more mellow space funk of "Role Play" has me drawing comparisons with the godfather of funk, George Clinton. "Role Play" is certainly a stand out though, it is the type of track that would be equally at home blasting from festival size speakers or enjoyed through your own little boombox at a Sunday BBQ, it can be enjoyed on different levels.
Be careful where you play "Asako" however, as this number might just blow up your little boombox! The catch cry is "Ambitious ways and no sex today" and this track needs to be played loud. Hints of TV on the Radio and Saul Williams can be heard as the guitar drives and the drums crash. They are joined by electrified horns and Thomas' distinct vocal cries before the crescendo is reached. Including a somewhat unexpected jazz breakdown, this rock track ensures a nod to Thomas’ jazz roots.
Soul tracks "Mandy Jo" and "Don't you Know" are the love ballads of the record and let Thomas really sing. Although they are by no means deadly serious lyrically, there is less of the humour of earlier tracks and this makes for definite highlights.
Overall this is an enjoyable album. Book ended by trumpet solo's (Thomas is a trumpet player by trade), there is no shortage of great horn hooks on this record. Though these are often accompanied by funk-style slap bass, some heavy drums and whining guitars. He certainly crams a lot into the hour of genre hopping, but nothing feels rushed! Fans of music in general, not any particular genre, should certainly give this record a spin.
4 stars. For those in London you can catch Leron Thomas at his official Album Release Party on November 5 at The Jazz Cafe. He is also performing a string of European dates including the MAMA Festival in Paris on October 15."
Harry Upton, StimulateYourSoul.com 9/22/15
"Jazz trumpeter Leron Thomas has always been willing to take chances with his music, but his latest single, "Role Play," is a masterstroke. Working off a dirty bass line, fresh guitar riffs, shimmering synths and a guest vocal by Bilal, it's a funky, futuristic song that bears the influence of Sa-Ra, N.E.R.D. or even Lenny Kravitz. This is music equally suited to commuting during drive time or lighting up candles and incense to relax after a long day."
Chris Campbell, NPR Music 8/26/15
"Leron Thomas may make most of his bread and butter playing jazz trumpet but he’s someone who doesn’t let himself be put in any kind of box. You can find him popping in all types of projects and what’s great is that even in his own work he doesn’t just go for the easy money pumping out the great jazz he’s known for. For instance we’ve got this latest track, “Role Play”. Driven by a dirty ass bass line it’s a futuristic sounding funk ballad that wouldn’t be out of place in Sa-Ra world (or Prince for that matter) and whatever trumpet that might be in there is buried low in the mix. He’s got Bilal on the assist with vocals which was an inspired choice, and it leads to the kind of track that you would find yourself pumping in the car on the way to the club or in the background while you’ve got those scented soy candles going and are trying to entice someone into the bedroom (there’s a reason it’s called Role Play)."
Reginald Duvivier, thecouchsessions.com 8/6/15
The EP serves as an appetizer before the new album Cliquish, a tenth wafer of his solo discography that began in 2005 with Dirty Draws Vol. 1, where we find the early nu-soul reference with Bilal, the Philadelphia companion both in the studio, live and as a friend with whom Leron regularly contributes with since 2001. Admittedly, the singer and trumpet player already had a long beautiful list collaborations, the head of which we find Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, Roy Hargrove, Meshell Ndegeocello or Zara McFarlane. Surrounded by a talented band - Simon Mavin (keyboards), Paul Bender (Synth-Bass) and Michael Severson (Bass, Guitar and Percussion) - Leron Thomas and Bilal give us a first extract of the groove and nasty, addictive, sprinkled with little sounds you would think straight from outer space, and we want more !!! :) While waiting to discover Cliquish, board, do not miss Leron Thomas."
Moodoftheday.fr 7/29/15 (translated from French)
"You have probably already met him alongside the unforgettable Guts with "Man Funk" or maybe on one of his solo albums (the Golden Shower extract from Dirty Draws vol.3 is a marvel, so we recommend you Take It ... released last year on vinyl from On-Point). Leron Thomas, a native of Texas, is gradually emerging as one of the attractions of the neo-groove-jazz-soul-hip-hop scene. Trumpeter, composer and singer of 36 years, blending requirement in the musical construction and ability to move the heads and buttocks, he is about to come out this year at Heavenly Sweetness (label expert es-groove which houses Guts, Blundetto, Sly Johnson, Dopegems or BR & CP) his 10th solo project, and perhaps, finally, to do more with him in France!
As a prelude to his upcoming album "Cliquish" this EP consists of 4 tracks including three variations of "Role Play" (the original version of 6 minutes and some more, a radio edit and a remix by Thomas himself and his sidekick Malik Crumpler). The title track is featuring with the immense Bilal (Leron's old touring companion, they almost started together on stage, accompanying the princess Erykah Badu) and offers a big dose of groove, a cosmic hair, both boiling melt the bitumen and silky like a wet kiss to the sea water: perfect for summer in all! What about Victorian Walls on which Leron Thomas demonstrated his soul power and his mastery of funk ... to somewhere between Sly & The Family Stone and Funkadelic: a monument!"
Pierre Raingeard, Radiochantier.com, 7/24/15 (translated from French)
"Trumpeter Leron Thomas' breathtaking performance when singing Two Sleepy People and the duet with Charles Haynes on The Joint Is Jumpin were the highlight of a final full of panache and virtuosity."
"Some highlights the very trumpeter Leron Thomas crooner sings "Two Sleepy People", the duo with drummer Charles Haynes and final "The Joint Is Jumpin '" from which one could recognize some accents of Ornette Coleman."
"GUTS continues the momentum and offers a generous provision. Ensuring that today "Strasbourg is the hottest city of France", yet it does not skimp on the solar side of his performance. Surrounding himself with several musicians and singers, the group thus formed cleverly combines hip-hop, soul, funk, jazz and even reggae. Atmosphere "too cool" that embeds the public in an exotic and nuanced universe. Special mention to trumpeter and singer Leron Thomas, undeniable talent who carries on his shoulders a large part of the live show"
"Leron Thomas impresses with class and sensuality on a lot of songs, but it's obviously on the tube "Man Funk" that he will return the room.
"Man Funk", that unstoppable single which was paid the rare luxury of a grand slam on the radio stations I listen to (Nova, FIP and Jazz Radio), a nugget so obvious that it will return as the encore without a person to find anything to complain about."
"The track that i personally would chose as my favorite would be "Man Funk" feat Leron Thomas, the name says everything about this song. Picture yourself walking down the street, irresistibly, with your flares on, flicking your toes whilst clicking your fingers and pointing at every lady in sight, making them fall to the ground in overwhelming elation at the sight of you. This track just has that overall satisfaction that instantly puts you in a mood that you never want to end."
"In the metrosexual age of considered grooming, men take longer to get ready. Music videos sometimes take longer to get ready too, because you just can’t rush these things. Man-Funk: the video — a dazzling array of 70s-80s swagger, masculinity and unbridled manliness, expertly curated by Leron Thomas. Because when the funk sounds good, it’s only right that it looks good too."
Ansel Neckles, Letsbebrief.co.uk, 1/31/15
"Totally wonderful work from Leron Thomas – an artist we're only discovering with this full length album, but one who we totally love already! Leron's got this hip style that's a mix of funky soul and darker, more sci fi-styled touches – some crispness on the beats, weird processing on his vocals, and a nice sense of abstraction that really inflects some great moments on the album's lyrics! Leron's worked before with Jason Moran, Guts, and Zara McFarlane – but this full length set on his own is a real revelation – with a sense of power and presence that should well have us hearing a lot more from him in years to come. Titles include "Enemy", "Kept", "Take It", "Appear To Stack", "Cover Band", and "Ass Kickin".
"His trumpet may have left his mark on Bilal's or Zara McFarlane's albums, or at gigs next to Roy Hargrove or Lauryn Hill, Leron Thomas remains nonetheless an utterly underground artist, despite a solo career that has been running for almost ten years.All of his albums are independently produced, only "...Take It" (2013) here gets a reissue via a label. A form of achievement, taking in account the anti-commercial side of his music. Because even if the elements composing it may be precisely labeled (Jazz, Electro, Soul, Funk, Hip Hop), the way Leron puts them together in complex constructions, out of conventional structures, makes the result hybrid and puzzling. Both Synthetic and organic, dark and upbeat, spoken and sung, like the happy New Yorker multiplying his voice on so many tracks and tonalities reminds one of Parliament's delirious harmonies. A gateway that may be hard to find, but a record full of craziness sounding like few others."
Franck Chochon, Soul Bag Magazine (FR), 12/16/14
"Best of that bunch is an insidious little tune called 'Roses'. The vocalist is Houston's Leron Thomas. Now working out of New York, the trumpeter and singer adds a laconic vocal to a great mid-tempo 70s style groove that recalls the best of the Mizell Brothers. Leron's there too on another cut.... a clever tune called 'Man Funk'. This one starts off as an insistent old school groove before morphing into something that good old George Clinton would be proud of. 'Hip Hop After All' is never less than interesting and in 'Roses' and 'Man Funk' you have two great soul tunes. Those two are worth investigating."
Bill Buckley, soulandjazzandfunk.com, 12/8/14
"..but it’s Leron Thomas who steals the vocal show"
Arsenio Orteza, WORLD magazine, 10/3/14
"una canzone lussureggiante e romantica, eseguita da grande "crooner" da Leron Thomas"
Elfio Nicolosi, Tracce di Jazz, 9/30/14
"Houston-native trumpeter, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Leron Thomas has been around the block quite a bit, and he certainly has had a busy year so far. His vocals have charmed the pants off folks singing alongside Zara McFarlane on "Angie La La" off If You Knew Her from earlier this year, and his work with Jason Moran in the Fats Waller Dance Party and Moran's latest album, All Rise: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller has been nothing if not eye-opening to how talented this man is. His voice and his horn exude a warmth and sweetness that should be celebrated all on its own. Now Thomas is doing so with the release of his new EP, Take It…. On it, Thomas is going a more experimental route, weaving and mashing his smooth voice with layers of sounds and electronic touches. It's so much more than a jazz release.
It would sort of make sense in this day and age to make an album that's more than one genre. His background goes deep, working in the R&B, soul realms when he hasn't been a sideman in demand in the jazz realm. He's playing with Bilal, Roy Hargrove, and Erykah Badu back in the early 00s and he's been a player in demand ever since. So it would stand to reason that the man has some range. To hear all the various influences play through so prominently in this release is a curveball, but it's certainly not outside of the strike zone. This can get weird, but not out of reach. Thomas is trying for some different things here with some surging beat flowing through this EP, clocking in at just under a half hour. There are many sides to Leron Thomas and it's cool to see this artist express himself so fully."
Anthony Dean-Harris, nextbop.com, 9/24/14
"The first track of All Rise I listened to was not the first on the record; it was “Two Sleepy People.” I just couldn’t resist: I love the song, and I love the Hoagy Carmichael versions of it, I love the Fats Waller recording… I just love it. And, to me, it was the perfect tune to hear first. It begins very traditionally – or, rather, it gets traditional as soon as the melody begins (sung in a beautiful mix of Carmichael, Waller and himself by Leron Thomas), but starts out with synths. Synths! It may be a nod to Waller’s organ playing, or it may not. Either way, it’s awesome, and so is Moran’s touch on the Fender Rhodes, which he plays for the rest of the track."
"“Two Sleepy People” gives trumpeter Leron Thomas a chance to show off his excellent vocals"
Frank Alkyer, Downbeat Magazine, 9/5/14
"The album takes plenty of detours including one from Leron Thomas, on the endearing Loesser/Carmichael song ‘Two Sleepy People’, who you might remember did a great turn singing on Zara McFarlane’s album last year. He manages to show why he might as well forget about the trumpet a bit as he’s one of the great new male jazz singers, post-Gregory Porter, to croon credibly in the Freddy Cole mould."
"Moran/Big Head Fats Waller let people chill out with "Two Sleepy People," sung by Thomas. It began as Waller would've done it, and sent many couples into a romantic spin on the floor while the tune evolved into later Miles Davis."
Mark Wedel, Kalamazoo Gazette, 4/28/14
"Trumpeter Leron Thomas supplied well-crafted obbligatos throughout and crooned "Two Sleepy People" in a bar room baritone"
Mike Drew, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4/27/14
"Another highlight was much closer to Waller’s own interpretation of a tune while still safely avoiding banal imitation. Leron Thomas, who delivered impressive trumpet work, muted and not, throughout the set, sang a thoroughly charming rendition of the Hoagy Carmichael/Frank Loesser classic “Two Sleepy People”
Bill Beuttler, Jazztimes.com, 4/7/14
"In some of these smoky and wandering songs, like “Angie La La,” with the American musician Leron Thomas as a guest on trumpet and vocals, all that’s needed is a drum groove, a bass vamp, wordless vocals, repeated vocal lines"
Ben Ratliff, The New York Times, 1/26/14
"What a fascinating enigma Leron Thomas is. An American Jazz trumpeter who is no stranger to the genre’s greats, his talent for molding his own style is only surpassed by his unique storytelling style. This track Sanitation Truck is out of the norm for Thomas. Experimental R&B, the highlight is the narrative- eerily, candidly, and ironically Cee Lo Green-ing it’s way over a minimal beat and telling a straightforward yet multilayered tale. Take your mind for a spin on Thomas’ pipes."
"This is the weirdest, yet oddly fucking touching track I’ve been sent in a long time. It’s the first piece of work I’ve come across by Leron Thomas, but a quick scan of his Youtube channel suggests he’s been working busily away in spite of me. I’m yet to make my way through his entire output, but his new cut Sanitation Truck seems like as good a place as any to start. It combines the bathetic narratives of early Busdriver material with the sincerity of Twin Shadow, (almost), to pretty engrossing effect. There’s a real charm to an adult retelling a story from childhood with the same wide-eyed confusion of the time, with just the right amount of perspective to give the whole thing weight. Tentatively excited for more."
"The latest album from Leron Thomas, download only so far, who appears as a guest on ‘Angie La La’ in Billy Eckstine-like vocals mode as well as playing trumpet on singer Zara McFarlane’s soon-to-be released new album http://www.marlbank.net/news/1180-zara-mcfarlane-returns-with-if-you-knew-her.An appealing post-hard bop tradition-in-transition collection Whatever finds the New York-based Houston jazz trumpeter with a band of pianist Taylor Eigsti (Oracle), bassist Harish Raghavan (who appeared to effect on Ambrose Akinmusire’s When the Heart Emerges Glistening), and alternating drummers Eric Harland of the Charles Lloyd quartet and Justin Brown, plus guitarists Michael Valeanu and Matthew Stevens. Thomas’ communicative Hubbard-esque trumpet personality and highly mellifluous and warm tone is aided by strong original material, ‘As Sheep’ in particular showing Thomas’ range and flair as an improviser."
"Anything that cannot be easily be pigeonholed is usually something ploughing it’s own course to a new star, so to speak.
Here’s Sanitation Truck, which seems to deconstruct jazz and 80′s pop via a hazy chill(ed)wave filter, a song about what? I’m not sure, but I like it, wonderfully bizarre stream of consciousness like some of Frank Zappa, or the soundtrack to a surreal John Hughes movie that’s not been made yet. Familiar yet warped, maybe parts of Weeknd, Arthur Russell, James Murphy, Bill Callahan or How to Dress Well, or even a lounge Death Grips, but see what I mean? All comparisons ultimately fail…intriguing. Also like this more recently recorded track Take It too – again kind of magically indescribable but to me has an Anna Meredith feel when she pulls apart pop songs, celebrating and making them transparent at the same time."
"Whatever, a great mellow, late-night jazz club listen, is released independently, but Thomas is also actually set to appear on a Blue Note release early next year, a Jason Moran and Meshell Ndegeocello Fats Waller Dance Party album."
"In a series of self-produced recordings, the trumpeter Leron Thomas has gone from straight-ahead jazz to rock and electronic music with wild, cutting jokes about stereotypes and anxieties. “Whatever” isn’t exactly the midpoint — it’s a jazz record all the way, with the pianist Taylor Eigsti, the guitarist Matthew Stevens, the bassist Harish Raghavan and the drummer Eric Harland. (Those who follow jazz in New York will see those names as guarantors of quality.) But it’s his best jazz record, both his most thoughtful and his sketchiest. Its music keeps breaking down into smaller groups of musicians and stubborn, cycling riffs before blooming out into patient, narrative soloing, of which some of the best is Mr. Thomas’s."
Ben Ratliff, The New York Times, 10/6/13
“Whatever” is a dismissive term, meant to convey “whatever you say” or “I don’t care.” It is also the name of Leron Thomas’ new musical release, his first jazz album in three years, and his 8th album release overall.But in Thomas’ case, “Whatever” could also imply a few other meanings: trained as a jazz trumpeter and composer, his forays into different styles of music these past three years followed by a return to jazz might be announced with a “yeah, I’m back, whatever.”The New York Times had noted several years ago that Thomas “became frustrated with the contemporary [jazz] scene and began creating ‘other’ music, seemingly as a hard left turn.” You would certainly get that sense if you listen to his previous album “… Take It,” which has an electronic-funk sound to it, complete with vocals by Thomas. If you didn’t know his varied tastes and skills, you might not even know these two albums were by the same person. “Whatever” here might be describing his disdain for the jazz scene, although after listening to this album, it’s a place where Thomas sounds very comfortable.
Leron Thomas new jazz album Whatever.
Joining Leron Thomas on Whatever are Taylor Eigsti on piano, Harish Raghavan on bass, Justin Brown and Eric Harland on drums, and Michael Valeanu and Matthew Stevens on guitar. I’m not a jazz critic, so I can’t break down the songs in any formalistic way, but the album does have an variety of styles, from the quiet and contemplative, on the trumpet-and-bass-only sound of Juini’s Redemption, to a gentle swing on Fool’s Paradise, to the ballad style of the title track Whatever, and a push-ahead bop feel on Waiting on Justin. And while Thomas clearly shines with his clean sound on trumpet, his skills as a composer are quite evident as he provides plenty of opportunities for his band mates to have their moments: Eigsti’s work on the piano especially comes through beautifully on a number of the compositions.
I would be curious to learn what exactly happened in the jazz scene that frustrated Leron Thomas, but he creates an aural narrative of these issues in Amidst The Wolves. The piano, bass and drums initiate the song with a somewhat frenetic backdrop, suggesting bickering people, over which Thomas soars with his calm voice on the horn, as if he’s rising above the scrum. I think it’s my favorite track on the album. For more on Leron Thomas, check out his website here, and while Whatever deserves your time for a listen, you should get a taste of Thomas’ musical flexibility and explore his forays into other musical genres – it’s all good."
A versatile trumpet player & composer as eager to add his line in the traditional Jazz history book as to explore alternative musical worlds, Leron Thomas is probably a name to add to your watchlist. Taking some time off his busy sideman agenda that sees him work for renowned soul/jazz singers like Meshell Ndegeocello or UK's latest gem Zara McFarlane, he is releasing Whatever, a soothing self-produced contemporary Jazz album. Leron's radiant trumpet leads the game, but his balanced compositions play it collective, offering some rejoicing space to Taylor Eigsti on piano and Michael Valeanu and Matthew Stevens on guitars. Spreading a classy swing around, Whatever could rapidly become one of your lazy sunday afternoons' best companions."
"Leron Thomas, Whatever: Terrifically vibrant set from trumpeter Thomas. One of those albums that picks up speed and never lets it go… an album with a perpetual sense of forward motion. While very much jazz of today, but strong echoes of traditional jazz verse give the music plenty of heart. With Taylor Eigsti on piano, Eric Harland on drums, Harish Raghavan on bass, and Matthew Stevens on guitar. Outstanding. Highly Recommended."
Dave Sumner, emusic.com, 9/18/13
"However you say the title of this album, it really is impossible to be blasé about Whatever. And whilst this album may be considered Leron Thomas’ first jazz album in three years, those with an ear for the finer things in life will have born witness to an artist, that by his very being, stands as a reflection of the true embodiment of free spirited Jazz. Joining Leron on trumpet is a stellar cast: Taylor Eigsti on piano, Harish Raghavan on bass, Justin Brown and the great Eric Harland on drums with guitarists, Michael Valeanu and Matthew Stevens. This is less of a review and more of a statement. Go cop this album on iTunes now. Life will be forever better for it"
Ansel Neckles, Letsbebrief.com, 9/16/13
"The most direct reference to Waller came from trumpeter and vocalist Leron Thomas. Singing the Hoagy Carmichael tune, “Two Sleepy People,” popularized by Waller, Thomas’ romantic rendition finally arrested a crowd buzzing from the show’s frenetic pace."
Steven Chandler, highbrowmagazine.com, 8/15/13
"..the party vibe in full effect as the band performed “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Your Feet’s Too Big,” “Handful of Keys” (Moran’s solo tour-de-force) and “Two Sleepy People,” with Thomas’ crowd-pleasing, elegantly delivered vocals"
Sharonne Cohen, jazztimes.com, 7/10/13
“But the main standout moment was the fabulous vocal and trumpet performance of "Two Sleepy People" by Leron Thomas”
"New York crew massive as always, what a night pre Sandy! Leron Thomas live was worth the ticket alone and Kilo Kish the bonus beat!"
Gilles Peterson - gillespetersonworldwide.com, 1/7/13
"January is a time of year where many make grandiose promises and gestures – aka New Year’s resolutions – for their future intentions.
Steph McLaren - letsbebrief.co.uk, 1/8/13
"Quirky guy extraordinaire Leron Thomas yesterday dropped a new project called ..Take It. You might recognize him from his guest vocal appearance at the recent Gilles Peterson set at Le Poisson Rouge in NYC this past October. Or maybe you remember the peculiar clown themed video we shared with you not so long ago? Either way, there's a lot more where that came from. For yet another taste of the antics, watch the "Appear To Stack" video above. Retro party vibes mixed in with some bizarre cameos that'll permeate your conscience something serious. Be ready for it."
"When Leron Thomas’ mum was in the queue for the ‘bestowment of gifts onto new born child’, she was handed a few. Which makes a Leron Thomas an anomaly. The talented trumpet, composer, vocalist and lyrist creates a strange but wonderful concoction of music that spans a range of genres. While you can never be quite sure what you are going to get, you can rest assured knowing the consistency is in the quality.According to Leron’s bio he has been establishing his musical career working alongside the likes of Robert Glasper, Micheal Stipe, Lauryn Hill and Mos Def. His solo efforts have received the recent co-sign from Giles Peterson, who featured him on Brownswood Bubblers Eight. Leron also likes to dabble on the visual side of things. Retro video mash-up edits Old Friends, featuring clown faced youngsters who veer more on the side of Stephen King’s It than the playful children’s party variety."
"Musician and vocalist Leron Thomas takes a leading role with producing and editing his new video for “Old Friends”. The evocative and performative song is coupled with an eerie video montage of vintage school clips and really eerie, creepy clown painted children."
"The catastrophic tsunami that hit Japan not all that long ago is still affecting areas of Japan and will continue, with changes to the ecosystem and the threat of a serious nuclear disaster still imminent. The music world, in particular, has done a phenomenal job in creating awareness and has itself created a wave of fantastic music. This latest offering is a jazzy excursion by "Mr New York" Leron Thomas and the extremely talented Gretchen Parlato. This one comes from an album called Home: Gift of Music - Japan Earthquake / Tsunami Relief, which you can't actually hear online except for this track and one other. This one, however, is a real standout using perfect, accessible, jazzy instrumentation with thoughtful lyrics. Be sure to check it out and if you're feeling generous, buy this album and support the cause."