This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
In 1969, he released his first solo album for Bob Thiele's Flying Dutchman label. Thomas is best known for his work with Pharoah Sanders, particularly the 1969 song "The Creator Has a Master Plan" from Sanders' Karma album. Thomas's most distinctive device was that he often broke out into yodeling in the middle of a vocal. This style has influenced singers James Moody, Tim Buckley and Bobby McFerrin, among others. He said in an interview that he developed this style after he fell and broke his teeth before an important show. Some of the vocal style is classified as 'jive singing'. (Ref: Leon Thomas Blues Band album).
Thomas toured and recorded as a member of the band Santana in 1973. He changed his name to Leone in 1974 because of an interest he had in numerology at the time. He did not legally change his name and he reverted to Leon shortly thereafter.
Thomas has been called the "John Coltrane of jazz vocalists". According to music essayist and yodel expert Bart Plantenga, he combined scat singing, vocalese techniques from African tradition, and a unique approach to yodeling, "performing ritualistic vocals infused by spiritual quests, soul music, and Pygmy yodeling techniques." Thomas's extension of the anthropological "verbal energy"—"whenever his Pygmy-yodel-scat erupted from the opening at the top of his larynx"—returns the listener back to "Pygmy yodeling not only via ethnomusicological investigation but via ur-soul, or back-to-Africa spiritual pilgrimage", Plantenga said.
Robert Christgau wrote of the significance behind Thomas's vocal abilities in Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981):
"He has literally expanded the musical possibilities of the human voice. He is as powerful a jazz/blues singer as Joe Williams or Joe Turner, both of whom he occasionally resembles, as inventive a scatter as Ella Fitzgerald. But that's just the beginning, for despite the generation lag, Thomas beats Turner and Williams in their mode even while singing his own, and he turns scatting from a virtuoso trick into an atavistic call from the unconscious."
- 1969: Spirits Known and Unknown (Flying Dutchman FD-10115)
- 1970: The Leon Thomas Album (Flying Dutchman FD-10132)
- 1970: Super Black Blues, Volume II (BluesTime [a Flying Dutchman subsidiary] BTS-9009) with T-Bone Walker, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Big Joe Turner
- 1971: In Berlin [live] (Flying Dutchman FD-10142) with Oliver Nelson
- 1971: Gold Sunrise on Magic Mountain [live] (Mega Records [in the 'Flying Dutchman Series'] M51-5003)
- 1972: Blues and the Soulful Truth (Flying Dutchman FD-10155) with Pee Wee Ellis, Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, Larry Coryell
- 1973: Facets: The Legend of Leon Thomas (An Anthology) (Flying Dutchman FD-10164) compilation; includes the three tracks from Johnny Hodges' 3 Shades of Blue that feature Leon singing.
- 1973: Full Circle (Flying Dutchman FD-10167)
- 1979: A Piece of Cake (Palcoscenico [Italy] PAL-15006) with Freddie Hubbard, Hadley Caliman
- 1987: Precious Energy [live] (Mapleshade Productions 512694A [rel. 1990]; Mapleshade MS-56942 [rel. 1993]) with Gary Bartz, Eddie Henderson
- 1988: The Leon Thomas Blues Band (Portrait/Epic RK-44161)
- 2014: Nucleus with Leon Thomas: Live 1970 (Gearbox Records GB-1529) with Nucleus
With Louis Hayes Group
- Variety Is the Spice (Gryphon, 1978)
With Johnny Hodges
With Dave Liebman
With Pharoah Sanders
- Karma (Impulse!, 1969)
- Izipho Zam (My Gifts) (Strata-East, 1969 )
- Jewels of Thought (Impulse!, 1969)
- Shukuru (Theresa, 1981 )
- Oh Lord, Let Me Do No Wrong (Doctor Jazz/CBS, 1987)
With Archie Shepp
- Kwanza (Impulse!, 1974)
With Cedar Walton
- Soundscapes (Columbia, 1980)
- Jazzsupreme Archived 2007-08-08 at the Wayback Machine
- Plantenga 2013, p. 249.
- Plantenga 2013, pp. 241–2.
- Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: T". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 16, 2019 – via robertchristgau.com.
- Jurek, Thom (n.d.). "Leon Thomas Album - Leon Thomas". AllMusic. Retrieved March 16, 2019.