The typical jazz lover doesn’t want to hear
“relaxing” as a modifier for his favorite music. The word implies a
certain snooze factor, and jazz isn’t about that. Still, there’s
something soothing, tranquil and – yes – relaxing about the sound of the
steel pans when played with skill.
Leon Foster Thomas is such a person, drawing inevitable comparisons to
Andy Narell. Thomas entertains with Brand New Mischief (Leon Foster
Thomas Music, 2012), a set of seven original songs. With Thomas are
pianist Allen C. Paul, acoustic bassist Kurt Kengstebeck and drummer
The title might be a hint at the origins of the steel pan. It was in
Trinidad and Tobago where young men, who out of suspicion of mischief
were forbidden to use drums to communicate, turned to other items. Among
them were modified oil drums.
“Sleepless Nights” is a free-spirited piece that’s anything but
tranquil. While Thomas runs point throughout the piece, his accompanists
enjoy a little stretching out. Alfonso’s staccato rhythm helps establish
his as more than just a background voice. Usually, with 4/4 music, the
snare is emphasized on beat 3. Alfonso moves it around quite a bit, and
throws in some rolls and cymbal splashes.
Hengstebeck lays down the groove for the funky title song. It’s like
instrumental soul music, peppered with calypso.
Foster is a World Steelband Music Festival soloist and duet champion of
2002 and 2004. A native of San Fernando, Trinidad, he attended Florida
Memorial University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Jazz
Studies. He performs at various festivals and concerts, as well as
conducts clinics on jazz, Caribbean music and the steel pan.