Yodelling: Umbo Weti

Pharoah Sanders: The Creator Has A Master Plan (Co-Composed by Leon Thomas)
From: Karma (Impulse!, 1969)

Norman Connors: The Creator Has A Master Plan
From: Saturday Night - You Are My Starship (Buddah/Sequel, 1976/1992)

Karma’ is Sanders’ third recording as a leader, perhaps the most famous of a number of spiritually-themed albums released on the Impulse record label in the late 60s/early 70s, which have ensured his reputation today. Although it is followed by the brief ‘Colors’, the album is most often remembered for one track, the 32-minute long ‘The Creator Has a Master Plan', co-composed by Sanders with vocalist Amos Leon Thomas Jr. (born 1937, died May 8, 1999 due to heart failure).

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Leon Thomas that appeared in Straight No Chaser #33, Autumn 1995. Straight No Chaser is a really groovy English jazz magazine, covering the resurgence in interest in great music (Acid jazz, jazz funk, kozmigroov, Latin & Brazilian) that those of us in the States wish was happening here on the same scale. It's available in most big record stores. The interview was conducted by Damian Lazarus.

"I was playing in Brooklyn with Randy Weston when Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders came by. They began to visit regularly and often jammed with us.

"Pharoah had this song called 'Pisces Moon,' which he was playing every night as a theme in New York and he asked me if I could put some lyrics to it. I came up with 'The Creator Has A Masterplan.' A classic was born..."

The yodelling trademark first materialised in the late 1960s and came as a result of somebody owing him money. "I'd been trying to reach this cat for ages with no luck. I was at home and thought 'I'm gonna make this cat pick up the phone'--mentally. I began my yoga exercises and got to the head stand. With one intake of breath, I planned to walk to the phone upside down, dial his number, and make him answer with this mental projection.

"As I crossed the threshhold of the bedroom, I transcended. I was one place and my body was another. I dropped to the floor, right on my face and my teeth went into my bottom lip. There was blood everywhere...

"So I couldn't do my own show with Pharoah. I had eight stitches in my mouth. I couldn't do anything. Pharoah came by to see me [and he said] you can't pull out."

Leon decided to play the gig, a church benefit for a group of anti-police activists in New York. "I couldn't smile. I could hardly open my mouth...but I went along anyhow. I got up on the stage and when it came time for me to scat, this sound just came out. It shocked me. I didn't know where it was coming from.

"I realised it was me and I realised that the ancestors had arrived. Pharoah, standing beside me on stage just raised his eyebrows at me. The ancestors had given me what we call throat articulation and they said to me 'You will sing like this with your mouth CLOSED.' And that was the first time it presented itself to me, in a church. My God! Thank you....It surprises me, it does everything of its own volition. I call it Soularfone. The pygmies call it Umbo Weti....This voice is not me, my voice is ancient. This person you see before you is controlled by ego but my voice is egoless."

*Sources: The Leon Thomas Page I Wikipedia

Norman Connors:
+ Skip Drinkwater


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