Leon Foster Thomas: Calasanitus

Like Horace Silver's The Cape Verdean Blues, album from the London-based steel-pan man draws on family origins, in this case Trinidad

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Just when you start to get fed up with family tribute albums, up pops Calasanitus by Leon Foster Thomas. Contrary to all too sentimental contemporary journeys, the steel-pan player’s homage to his late mother Hillouise Calasanitus Foster earns its rightful place in a sincere lineage of bloodline themes from the African diaspora.

In a modern sense, it is similar to such classics as Horace Silver’s Song For My Father and The Cape Verdean Blues and to current allegiances to kinship such as saxophonist Eli Degobri’s Henri And Rachel. However, instead of Cape Verdean or Israeli roots, Calasanitus draws on the rhythmic and melodic heritage of Trinidad and the West Indies. 

Thomas’s handling of the steel pan, a curiosity in jazz that bears similarities to marimba and vibraphone, is imposing. It alternately sounds like a sweet children’s voice that bounces off the echo-chamber walls of the bathroom from behind the shower curtain and the clear bell tone from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Thomas embeds his mix of now melancholy, now sunny colours and blue and odd notes in a spicy Caribbean groove, which is flavoured by cushion-soft reeds and brass, and supple flute to boot. He strongly values dynamics, notably using his repetitive burning bushes of phrases to full effect in the telling I Am An Immigrant and Cheers, best-known in the version of soca star Bunji Garlin. No less than a newfound Trinidadian blues.

Ascension is not to be confused with Coltrane’s free gospel-jazz opus, though its intense narrative arc is an appropriate reflection of the title and leads one to conclude that faith runs in the family. Dance Of David is contemplative, the breather of a record that finds the London-based musician on top of his game.

Discography
I Am An Immigrant; Silent Maze; Bliss; Dance Of David; Cheers; Together; Ascension (53.21)
Foster Thomas (steel pan); John Daversa (t); Troy Roberts (ts, as); Magela Herrera (f); Tal Cohen (p); Michael Ramos (b); Michael Piolet, Harvel Nakundi (d); Antonia N. Wilson, Faith Low & Donald A. Lowe Jr. (v). Hialeah, Florida, May 2021.
Krossover Jazz