Reply to Thread Bookmark Thread
Posts 1 to 32 of 32
  1. #1

    User Info Menu

    Rene Thomas is one of my favourite guitar player and one of the most overlooked guitar player ever. I know nearly every record he''s made . Someone said me that he was not able to read music . That sound a bit odd to me . It's true that django plays bach without being able to read music . But Rene had a strong sense of harmony, and even if Django and Raney was his main influences , I suppose that he was able to read music because his guitar language had something of the Bach perfection . Did everyone know if he was able to read music ?

    Sorry for my little English

  2.  

    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

    User Info Menu

    I don't know about Thomas in particular, other than a couple of comments I see on the internet.

    But the careers of Errol Garner, Wes Montgomery, Tal Farlow, Art Tatum, George Benson and lots more should make it clear that having very limited or no music-reading ability is not incompatible with having a strong sense of harmony, and being able to play very sophisticated jazz.

  4. #3
    You 're right . It is only one of my own curiosity .

  5. #4

    User Info Menu

    I learned about Rene Thomas from tenor saxophonist JR Monterose. They were roommates during JR's European expat period. He told me that Rene used to tie off the neck with a handkerchief to mute the strings and play bugle calls with the pick while listening to sports on the radio. I assume that means that Rene could at least read basic rhythms out of an etude book. I don't know any more about Rene, but I've noticed that when some guitarists of the bebop generation said they're 'not readers', they meant they don't read up to the level of Chuck Wayne and Howard Roberts, not that they can't decipher staff notation at all.

    PK

  6. #5

    User Info Menu

    most excellent appreciation/overview of rene thomas by french guitarist- noël akchoté

    PREPARED GUITAR: Angle(s) VIII Rene Thomas


    cheers

  7. #6

    User Info Menu

    There's no way of telling if you go by Rene's albums as a leader, but he did a few sideman albums that probably required reading.
    One was John Lewis' "A Milanese Story", which was music from a film by the same name that Lewis wrote the film score. The music has a lot of non-improvised single-line guitar parts that would be much easier to perform if Lewis had written them out for Rene. I can't find the record in that mess of a closet I've got, but I think there's a string quartet on it that Rene plays lines with.

    Another album is "The United Nations of Jazz", an album from the early 60s that features jazz players from all different countries playing in a sextet that also involved playing arrangements which might have required some reading, because it's not just an album where they played standards and took solos on them.
    European players made their living playing in radio orchestras, and maybe Rene played in in a Belgian or French one, which would also require reading.

  8. #7

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by sgcim View Post
    There's no way of telling if you go by Rene's albums as a leader, but he did a few sideman albums that probably required reading.
    One was John Lewis' "A Milanese Story", which was music from a film by the same name that Lewis wrote the film score. The music has a lot of non-improvised single-line guitar parts that would be much easier to perform if Lewis had written them out for Rene. I can't find the record in that mess of a closet I've got, but I think there's a string quartet on it that Rene plays lines with.

    Another album is "The United Nations of Jazz", an album from the early 60s that features jazz players from all different countries playing in a sextet that also involved playing arrangements which might have required some reading, because it's not just an album where they played standards and took solos on them.
    European players made their living playing in radio orchestras, and maybe Rene played in in a Belgian or French one, which would also require reading.
    I have those 2 lps but for the life of me can't find the United Nations lp. Anyway Thomas plays very little on the arrangements, he's almost exclusively a soloist. The one part w strings is 3 or 4 easy lines Lewis could have just played for him.

  9. #8
    Ths I didn't know the Noell AKCHOTE Blog . I'm a devoted student of Rene THOMAS's music and NOEL couldn't find better words to describe the fine art of Renè . Just few guitar players was able to put on the guitar the level of energy and intensity in Moment's Notice such as John Coltrane did. At the same time few jazz guitar players were consciousness of the evolution that jazz music did in the 60 /70 as Rene did till his end .

  10. #9
    Ths Paulkogut , I really appriciate your words . It is so difficoult to find something about Rene Thomas.
    Monterose was another overlooked Saxophone player . I really like his unusual saxophone tone .
    What I mean is the way to feel the music of Rene , was so great that in such way he know the complex classical music structure even if didn't play classicl music.
    Jimmy Raney said that he was a devoted student of Bach and C.Parker . In Jimmy Raney music you hear an incredible amount of flux of ideas as in Rene Music .
    Maybe Rene was not able to reading well the music but he knew such as few the secrets of a complex structure . In few words a guitar genius .
    Maybe much important to me than knowing if was able in reading music or not , is to know if he listen to other kind of music other than jazz .
    It is well known that Coltrane and Raney listen to Bartok music . Yes they play jazz music but in some way you listen they consider in their music other musical influences .

  11. #10

    User Info Menu

    Another Rene Thomas website here, seems to be something of a work in progress though, not all the links do anything:

    http://thomasia.free.fr/accueil.php

  12. #11

    User Info Menu

    A while ago I purchased Rene’s ‘Guitar Groove’ record as an amazon download, and it included all the tracks from that ‘United Notions’ record too. On the latter you get to hear Rene introducing himself in French (as I recall).

    United Notions - Wikipedia

  13. #12

    User Info Menu

    A friend of mine got interested in jazz at the start of the 70s and was taken to see his first proper jazz gig at Ronnie Scotts, by another friend who was a jazz buff.

    What he actually saw there was Stan Getz with Rene Thomas, i.e. some of the live sessions which were recorded as the Getz ‘Dynasty’ record. Quite something for your first live jazz experience!

  14. #13

    User Info Menu

    I'm certain this has been discussed in great detail previously but simply stated--if you're a musical genius it probably doesn't matter. However, 99.9% of Jazz musicians are not geniuses and learning by ear takes 2-3x as long to become competent versus formal training. And, then, what do you do if you get a job that requires reading charts--exactly as written? One can learn to speak a language without being able to read or write, but, for most, you will never reach total fulfillment.
    Play live . . . Marinero

  15. #14

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    I have those 2 lps but for the life of me can't find the United Nations lp. Anyway Thomas plays very little on the arrangements, he's almost exclusively a soloist. The one part w strings is 3 or 4 easy lines Lewis could have just played for him.
    You're probably right, I haven't heard either of those records in a long time. In that Gary Burton autobiography we mentioned, Burton said the entire MJQ tried to play a piece by Gunther Schuller, but had such trouble reading the music, they had to call Burton in to play Bags' part, so Lewis was used to that type of thing.
    I don't know about Lewis' sight reading abilities either. Aaron Sachs told me a funny story about John Lewis.
    He played on the Lewis album "Little David's Fugue", and Aaron was practicing reading Bach pieces on the flute during a break.
    Lewis asked him what he was doing. Aaron told him, and Lewis' reply was something like, "Wow, I've never done anything like that! Maybe I should
    try doing something like that sometime!"
    Aaron couldn't believe it!

  16. #15

    User Info Menu

    One of the best members of this forum (who was banned for some reason that wasn't clear to me), whom I've remained friends with, recently sent me an interview with Rene Thomas, where he clearly states that he couldn't read music.
    Rene said that he would get guys to play the lines they would want him to play, and he would copy them, or he'd ask them to let him have the music overnight, and he'd decipher it on his own at home.
    He also informed me of a recent album of some of Rene's previously unreleased stuff on Fresh Sound Records. The record is called, Remembering Rene Thomas".Rene Thomas - Remembering Rene Thomas (2-CD) - Blue Sounds

  17. #16

    User Info Menu

    Well, there you have it! Can you link the interview?
    I'll be buying those CDs for sure, there's even a cut w/Jimmy Smith and Donald Bailey, hoo boy!


  18. #17

    User Info Menu

    I would love to hear this interview!

  19. #18

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    ....learning by ear takes 2-3x as long to become competent versus formal training. And, then, what do you do if you get a job that requires reading charts--exactly as written?
    Generally people who can't read don't take those jobs.

  20. #19

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by belfagor View Post
    Rene Thomas is one of my favourite guitar player and one of the most overlooked guitar player ever. I know nearly every record he''s made . Someone said me that he was not able to read music . That sound a bit odd to me . It's true that django plays bach without being able to read music . But Rene had a strong sense of harmony, and even if Django and Raney was his main influences , I suppose that he was able to read music because his guitar language had something of the Bach perfection . Did everyone know if he was able to read music ?

    Sorry for my little English

    Sure, Django could play a Bach melody without reading music. Maybe even add a convincing second voice.


    Hearing a four voice fugue, and playing it back after a single listen? Not so much.




    I suspect many of the tales told in music, contain as much bullshit as what you read on the Internet today.

  21. #20

    User Info Menu

    rene thomas was visually handicapped. he was probably familiar with notation but no sight reader.
    Last edited by djg; 01-20-2021 at 05:34 AM.

  22. #21

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    Another Rene Thomas website here, seems to be something of a work in progress though, not all the links do anything:

    http://thomasia.free.fr/accueil.php
    it's been up for years. i've tried to contact the owner a few times but without sucess.

  23. #22

    User Info Menu

    Interesting conversations. I would like to mention one last observation in a lifetime of playing music: there is not a greater group of instrumentalists, other than guitarists, who do not read music. This, of course, is not the case with Classical guitarists. The reason, for me, is that it is such a popular and accessible instrument to play reasonably well with limited formal training/knowledge. However, when we speak of someone like Renee, reading or not reading music would not, in any way, diminish the genius of his playing. He was a born musician and that cannot be taught from a book as several generations of schooled Jazzers with their lifeless and tired memorized solos can attest.
    Play live . . . Marinero

  24. #23

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    Interesting conversations. I would like to mention one last observation in a lifetime of playing music: there is not a greater group of instrumentalists, other than guitarists, who do not read music. This, of course, is not the case with Classical guitarists. The reason, for me, is that it is such a popular and accessible instrument to play reasonably well with limited formal training/knowledge. However, when we speak of someone like Renee, reading or not reading music would not, in any way, diminish the genius of his playing. He was a born musician and that cannot be taught from a book as several generations of schooled Jazzers with their lifeless and tired memorized solos can attest.
    Play live . . . Marinero
    I started out on guitar mainly playing by ear, internalizing that whole "reading music is stuffy and inauthentic" thing that floats around from time to time. But the fact is, if someone can really play well, technically and improvisationally, and play by ear, really what's the harm in them also adding to that the ability to read music? I cannot sight-read very well, but some years ago I decided that I needed all the help I could get, and lots of musical secrets are buried in those pages of notation. I also saw notation as the "Rosetta Stone" of music, it was the key that any instrument could use, unlike tab. I don't know if I'll ever be a solid sight-reader, but I've only benefited from incorporating reading into my musical learning. It hasn't hurt my ear in the least, indeed, seeing especially rhythmic notation has been deeply helpful.

    So Rene Thomas is truly an amazing player with a distinctive voice. I jog every morning listening to JazzRadio.com's "Guitar Jazz" channel and since the tracks come at random, I enjoy trying to guess each player. Rene Thomas is easy to spot. Still, even if someone could play like him or like Wes, or like Glen Campbell who famously didn't read, I can't see how learning notation could possibly hurt, and it could help in many ways. In addition, it isn't that hard to get a rudimentary grasp of notation as applied to the guitar, or to the piano, for that matter.

    Doesn't have to be "either-or" but clearly a "both-and."

  25. #24

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone View Post
    I started out on guitar mainly playing by ear, internalizing that whole "reading music is stuffy and inauthentic" thing that floats around from time to time. "
    I'm curious how you were able to learn to play the head (melody) with the "by ear" approach? Yea, one can listen to instrumental jazz recordings but rarely is the head played as written by the composer. Listening to singers adds a lot of value but still this is their interpretation of the melody.

    Since I could read music before I started playing guitar I use this approach: find the sheet music and learn the melody as written by the composer. Listen to jazz musicians and singers interpretation of the melody and then from that point forward, play the melody by-ear (with my own interpretation).

    Of course I have just winged-it and played the melody of a song by ear before referencing the sheet music. But what I have found is that when the melody line was slightly different in various sections (e.g. an A, A, B, A+ song), the melody line I played by-ear was either a hybrid or just one of the sections (i.e. those slight differences were not there).

  26. #25

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by jameslovestal View Post
    I'm curious how you were able to learn to play the head (melody) with the "by ear" approach? Yea, one can listen to instrumental jazz recordings but rarely is the head played as written by the composer. Listening to singers adds a lot of value but still this is their interpretation of the melody.

    Since I could read music before I started playing guitar I use this approach: find the sheet music and learn the melody as written by the composer. Listen to jazz musicians and singers interpretation of the melody and then from that point forward, play the melody by-ear (with my own interpretation).

    Of course I have just winged-it and played the melody of a song by ear before referencing the sheet music. But what I have found is that when the melody line was slightly different in various sections (e.g. an A, A, B, A+ song), the melody line I played by-ear was either a hybrid or just one of the sections (i.e. those slight differences were not there).
    I started GUITAR playing by ear, not JAZZ! I started out a folk player, John Denver wanna-be type. I actually did manage to learn "Classical Gas" pretty much by ear when I was 14, but it took a whole summer, ruining both a record and a record player in the process! I could read chord symbols, but for the most part I did play by ear. I'd taken piano for a year when I was 8 or 9, so with a gun to my head I could name the notes on the staff, but I avoided reading like the plague until I was in my 30's and got interested in jazz. That's when I dusted off what little bit of the staff I knew and started trying to learn the fingerboard.

  27. #26

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by lawson-stone View Post
    I started GUITAR playing by ear, not JAZZ! I started out a folk player, John Denver wanna-be type. I actually did manage to learn "Classical Gas" pretty much by ear when I was 14, but it took a whole summer, ruining both a record and a record player in the process! I could read chord symbols, but for the most part I did play by ear. I'd taken piano for a year when I was 8 or 9, so with a gun to my head I could name the notes on the staff, but I avoided reading like the plague until I was in my 30's and got interested in jazz. That's when I dusted off what little bit of the staff I knew and started trying to learn the fingerboard.
    So to learn the heads of a jazz standard, you read the music notation. I assumed as much.

    The main reason I asked is that I play with a lot of other guitar players that can't read music and therefor, when we jam, I always end up playing the head. While these friends are fine at improvisation, their solos often are not very melodic since they don't know the melody.

  28. #27

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by sgcim View Post
    One of the best members of this forum (who was banned for some reason that wasn't clear to me), whom I've remained friends with, recently sent me an interview with Rene Thomas, where he clearly states that he couldn't read music.
    Rene said that he would get guys to play the lines they would want him to play, and he would copy them, or he'd ask them to let him have the music overnight, and he'd decipher it on his own at home.
    He also informed me of a recent album of some of Rene's previously unreleased stuff on Fresh Sound Records. The record is called, Remembering Rene Thomas".Rene Thomas - Remembering Rene Thomas (2-CD) - Blue Sounds
    Managed to find an inexpensive copy of this 2 cd set that got here in literally 2 days. Tons of great recordings, most w pretty good fidelity overall and the booklet may be the most comprehensive I've ever seen in a 2 cd set including lots of great photos of him playing everything from a German archtop early on to his signature ES-150 to a Strat, this package was a labor of love. Can never have enough Rene, highly recommended and thanks to sgcim for the heads up!

  29. #28

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon View Post
    Managed to find an inexpensive copy of this 2 cd set that got here in literally 2 days. Tons of great recordings, most w pretty good fidelity overall and the booklet may be the most comprehensive I've ever seen in a 2 cd set including lots of great photos of him playing everything from a German archtop early on to his signature ES-150 to a Strat, this package was a labor of love. Can never have enough Rene, highly recommended and thanks to sgcim for the heads up!
    One sad thing I learned from the booklet (according to the friend that bought the 2 CD) was that Rene died from an OD.
    I remember reading in Time magazine that Rene was listed as dying of a heart attack.

  30. #29

    User Info Menu

    " when we jam, I always end up playing the head. " Jameslovestal

    Hi, J,
    There's that word again (head) I/we never used in Chicago. See how enlightened I'm becoming now! I might keep it in a secret passbook and whisper it occasionally . . . it's great to live life dangerously!
    Play live . . . Marinero

    P.S. For those who were not involved in a previous discussion, we used the word "top" as in "Back to the top." M

  31. #30

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by Marinero View Post
    " when we jam, I always end up playing the head. " Jameslovestal

    Hi, J,
    There's that word again (head) I/we never used in Chicago. See how enlightened I'm becoming now! I might keep it in a secret passbook and whisper it occasionally . . . it's great to live life dangerously!
    Play live . . . Marinero

    P.S. For those who were not involved in a previous discussion, we used the word "top" as in "Back to the top." M
    I hear "head" and "top" in Chicago.

    "You take the head on this one."
    "Let's trade 4's for a chorus and then back to the top."

  32. #31

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by mr. beaumont View Post
    I hear "head" and "top" in Chicago.

    "You take the head on this one."
    "Let's trade 4's for a chorus and then back to the top."
    Here in So Cal both terms are used.

    Hey, yesterday, I was reading about Chicago schools and teachers and the virus. Hope things are getting better for you or at least the near future looks like they will.

  33. #32

    User Info Menu

    Quote Originally Posted by jameslovestal View Post
    Here in So Cal both terms are used.

    Hey, yesterday, I was reading about Chicago schools and teachers and the virus. Hope things are getting better for you or at least the near future looks like they will.
    Thanks...total and complete shit show over here...tomorrow, barring any breakthroughs in negotiations, we are doing a "teach in," everyone is staying home and teaching remotely...after that one side either compromises or I'm on strike again.