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Festival de Jazz de Montreal : August 26-31 , 1961


By LEN DOBBIN (05/06/97)

In the summer of 1961, the Montreal Festivals Society (then located at 766 Sherbrooke Street West) announced a six-day jazz event at the Comedie Canadienne (now the home of the Theatre du Nouveau Monde and, before that , the Gayety , a burlesque house). lt ran from August 26 through 31.

August 26 :

Belgian guitarist Rene Thomas , who was residing here , opened the festival with Bird's Au Privave , with Fred McHugh on bass and Pierre Beluse on drums. Thomas and McHugh soloed well , and Beluse’s backing was just right. Thomas was at his lyrical best on Like Someone In Love , which was in turn followed by an original, I Remember Sonny (for Rollins whom he'd recorded with recently). On it , R.Thomas was spurred by Beluse into some top-notch playing , with McHugh doing an amazing solo out of Wilbur Ware's bag. Django's Manoir de Mes Reves was notable especially for Thomas' feeling for both the tune and its composer. The response from the audience at the end of that number was not to be topped , not even by the Modern Jazz Quartet. The trio's playing on Tadd Dameron's John's Delight was again exceptional. Thomas wisely then chose another Reinhardt piece , Nuages , and the results were again electrifying. Another Dameron opus , Our Delight , closed the first half of the concert with exciting playing from all three members of the trio.

PERSONNEL : Rene Thomas (guitar) , Fred Mac Hugh (bass) , Pierre Beluse (drums)


1. Au Privave (Parker)
2. Like Someone In Love (Burke-Van Heusen)
3. I Remember Sonny (Thomas)
4. Manoir De Mes Reves (Reinhardt)
5. John's Delight (Dameron)
6. Nuages (Reinhardt)
7. Our Delight (Dameron)

August 29 :

Rene Thomas' second appearance was not a repeat of the explosive opening night set. However , Thomas' playing was far from being as bad as the local press reported. I had never heard Thomas play really badly. He made You Made Me Love You into something quite lovely. Fred McHugh had an imaginative solo on Night ln Tunisia and Nuages , which served as an encore and had Thomas' best solo of the night. I feet at this time he was the only guitarist who could do justice to the memory of his countryman , Django Reinhardt.

PERSONNEL : Rene Thomas (guitar) , Fred Mac Hugh (bass) , Pierre Beluse (drums)


1. You Made Me Love Into (?)
2. Night In Tunisia (Gillespie)
3. Nuages (Reinhardt)

Closing Party and conclusion

There was festival closing party at the LaSalle Hotel (now the Europa) on Drummond Street , where it came as a welcome surprise to discover that Eddy Louiss of the Double Six was also an excellent jazz pianist . He sat in with Thomas and played a solo that had the guitarist spinning around in amazement. It's too bad he wasn't presented in a trio setting during the festival itself. Ten years later , E.Louiss (on organ) , R.Thomas and drummer Bernard Lubat were heard in Paris by Stan Getz, who hired them immediately as his rhythm section. You can check that group out on Getz` Dynasty , a 2-CD set on Verve.

1961 afterthoughts- I picked Rene Thomas as the outstanding musician. He was nearly always brilliant.


REMARK : You can find the complete Montreal Festival report on


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