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René Thomas (Liège, February 25, 1926 - Santander (Spain), January 3, 1975) was a Belgian jazz guitarist. Although little known to the general public, he enjoyed a strong live reputation and great appreciation from his fellow musicians.
The young René Thomas fell under the musical influence of Django Reinhardt. In the 1940s he played in orchestras in Liège, then in Brussels with Jacques Pelzer, Bobby Jaspar and Sadi, among others. In Liège he was a member of the first bebop orchestra in Belgium, the Bob Shots.
In 1953 he moved to Paris where he became acquainted with the playing style of Jimmy Raney. As a sideman and leader he made several recordings for labels such as Barclay and Vogue. During this period the appreciation of his fellow jazz musicians for his playing style grew.
In 1956 he settled in Montreal. With Montreal as a base, he played with Jackie McLean, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and Bobby Jaspar, who moved to New York.
Thomas and Jaspar returned to Belgium in 1961 and formed the International Jazz Quintet (sometimes Quartet) with Benoît Quersin and Daniel Humair. This formation played at various jazz festivals in Europe, and sometimes together with Chet Baker. In the course of 1962, Bobby Jaspar left the group because of his health problems, and Thomas continued with Jacques Pelzer on the saxophone. From 1963 he collaborated a lot with the organist Lou Bennett.
In 1965 Thomas withdrew from music depressed. At the end of 1967 he returned with the Liège jazz combo Robert Jeanne Quartet. Gradually he started to play more and go on tour again. He played with J.R. Monterose and Lucky Thompson. With Eddy Louiss he accompanied Stan Getz on his record Dynasty (1971).
In 1973 René Thomas was the guest of saxophonist Sonny Rollins at Jazz Middelheim. At the end of 1974 he went on tour with Lou Bennett to Spain, where he died of a heart attack.
René Thomas plays Django Reinhardt - Manoir de mes Rêves 1971