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Zwee Dot: “Disillusion Blues” by Leon Thomas

By Kelly Sill

In last month’s “Zwee Dot,” Kelly Sill shared his listening notes to Oliver Nelson’s composition/arrangement “Yearning” from Johnny Hodges’ last album, 3 Shades of Blue. Taken by the album for decades, Sill has chosen another cut for this month’s column: “Disillusion Blues” by Leon Thomas.

“Disillusion Blues”

from the Johnny Hodges recording

3 Shades of Blue

1970, Flying Dutchman

Johnny HodgesAlto saxophone

Leon Thomas – Voice, composer

Oliver Nelson – Arranger, conductor

Randy Brecker, Ernie Royal, Marvin Stamm, Snooky YoungTrumpet

Al Grey, Quentin Jackson, Garnett Brown, Thomas Mitchell – Trombone

Bob Ashton, Danny Bank, Jerry Dodgion, Joe Farrell, Jerome Richardson, Frank WessReeds

Earl Hines – Piano

David SpinozzaGuitar

Ron CarterBass

Grady TateDrums

0:03 And the cut starts, with two snare quarter note pickups

0:08 What a powerful intro

0:16 Boy, did Leon come in strong

0:20 The guitar player is stepping on Leon a little bit

0:23 Ron and Grady sound great as usual

0:27 That was better from the guitar

0:38 Great lyrics

0:41 The guitar player is in the way

0:53 Ah, the horns come in

1:04 Oh baby, he really means it

1:15 Great horn backgrounds, plus the harmonic thing is pretty incredible

1:25 Ron and Leon control the whole band; this guitar sounds like a mosquito

1:32 Dig the lyrics!

1:43 Johnny Hodges comes in like silk, and the guitar player steps on him

1:47 Johnny’s quarter notes are unbelievable

1:50 And the guitar player ruins it by playing double-time

1:55 He clearly doesn’t understand Johnny at all

2:05 That was terrible

2:08 Ironically, some of the best Johnny I’ve ever heard

2:14 Again, great harmonic movement

2:20 Stop-time

2:25 Gives Leon some space

2:30 Would somebody turn off the guitar amp?

2:33 Yeah, Leon: yodeling!

2:38 The trombone is refreshing

2:44 The trombonist is beautiful—bet that it’s Quentin

2:55 The lyrics are clearly soulful

3:12 Leon Thomas!

3:20 Great horn backgrounds!

3:27 This is incredibly powerful

3:40 Full out!

3:43 It sounds like they’re going out

3:50 They are going out

3:52 Too bad the guitar player got the last word

3:58 With one notable exception, another great cut!


Kelly Sill has been a mainstay of the Chicago jazz scene for more than 45 years. After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he moved to Chicago. 

He has since performed and recorded with a vast array of jazz artists, including Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Art Farmer, Eddie Jefferson, Clark Terry, Cedar Walton, Herb Ellis, Woody Shaw, Hank Jones, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessel, Chris Potter, Ernie Watts, Bob Mintzer, Mel Torme, Anita O'Day, Janice Borla, Jack Mouse, Jackie McLean, Joey DeFrancesco, Donald Byrd, Bobby Watson, Eddie Harris, Scott Hamilton, Victor Lewis, Clifford Jordan, Bucky Pizzarelli, and many more. 

He has performed at the Chicago Jazz Festival, Ravinia Festival, the Elkhart Jazz Festival, the Red Sea Jazz Festival, the Thessaloniki Concert Hall in Greece, and Symphony Center (Orchestra Hall) in Chicago.

Kelly has served on the faculties of Northwestern University, Interlochen Arts Academy, Northeastern Illinois University, Lake Forest College, DePaul University, and Northern Illinois University. He currently teaches at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. For questions or comments please contact him at or visit his website at

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