(Independent)

Rating: 7.0

Having made a career for himself through both his distinctive trumpet voice and compositional prowess, Leron Thomas added to his discography with his recent release of Juxtaposed, a utterly creative, if not partially bizarre, venture into the inventive mind of a masterful genre-bender.

The album begins on an atmospheric tone with “Juxtaposed Aussie 1,” as Latin inspired pianist Axel Tosca first throws down an airy synth pad which ends up fading into the warm tone of Thomas’ trumpet. The band goes into a smooth jazz groove with Tosca riffing over the top, adding some soul to the mix. Yet, immediately we are thrown into the unexpectedly raw vocals of Leron Thomas on “Black Foot.” His vocals are almost abrasive at first listen, yet the more you listen, the less abrasive they become giving way instead to raw emotion. In all honesty, from a production standpoint, more could’ve been done to the vocal tracks in terms of compression, reverb, or EQ (maybe all three), but it seems that Thomas was striving for the sound he attained; his sort of artistic statement. The “juxtaposition” it seems comes from the duality of the refined and technically pleasing instrumental tracks versus the emotional bluntness of Thomas’ vocals and overall thematic presentation. Thomas brought together a diverse and talented group of musicians to join him on the album including pianists Tosca and Theo Hill, bassists Burniss Earl Travis and Chris Smith, drummers Amaury Acosta and Tom Roslak, guitarist Aaron Nevezie, violinist Frederika Krier, as well as guest vocalist Bridget Barkan. Melodically, the album leans towards a jazz temperament with Thomas’ vocal lines paying homage to standards such as “A Night in Tunisia” during his track “Harassed,” yet Thomas also ventures into a distinctively rock feel in “Mystery Religion.”

Unlike many jazz albums, Leron even made a music video for his hard hitting jazz-rock ballad “Mystery Religion.” The video appears to be inspired by the likes of Michael Jackson, and some sort of glam rock influence, maybe David Bowie. It is bizarre, it’s indulgent, it’s comical, but it’s also just an awesome song. I can’t say I totally buy into the video, but it’s definitely creative and you have to give him credit for that.

Words By Eric Sandler

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