René Thomas

Guitar Groove

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European guitarist Rene Thomas made his debut as a leader with this 1960 date for the Jazzland label. Residing in Quebec at the time, Thomas is joined by an American cast of characters on Guitar Groove. In the bass chair is Teddy Kotick, one-time member of the Horace Silver and Bill Evans groups. Tenor saxophonist J.R. Monterose joins the quintet, fresh from the dates for his own The Message. Albert "Tootie" Heath, then in between stints with J.J. Johnson and the Jazztet, lends his drum work, and Hod O'Brien fills in the gaps on piano. These are session musicians of the highest order: skilled improvisers who always know when to make concessions to a group setting. In addition to the three original numbers on hand, the quintet dips into the book of jazz standards, rendering Burke and VanHeusen's "Like Someone in Love," Gershwin's "How Long Has This Been Going On?," Thelonious Monk's "Ruby, My Dear," and Miles Davis' "Milestones." At times the players are almost too polite, though the spark provided by Heath's snare punctuation and vibrant fills generally keep the band on the ball. "Thomas" himself is in fine, refined form, his sound an exquisitely enunciated flow of cool tones. He reserves "How Long" for himself, stretching out over six minutes, accompanied only by Heath's brushwork and Kotick's reserved bass playing. Though he's made substantial contributions to dates with Chet Baker, Sonny Rollins, Stan Getz, and others, Guitar Groove is arguably Thomas' strongest date as leader.

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