Stan Getz Dynasty (Verve 1971)

And the Bentley driving guru is putting up his price, anyone for tennis… wouldn’t that be nice?

Stan Getz - Dynasty


Stan Getz (tenor saxophone), Eddy Louiss (organ), René Thomas (guitar), Bernard Lubat (drums)


on January 11 and March 15-17 at Ronnie Scott’s, London


as V6-8802 in 1971

Track listing

LP1 Side A:
Dum Dum Dum
Ballad For Leo
LP1 Side B:
Our Kind Of Sabi
LP2 Side A:
Theme For Emmanuel
LP Side B:
Song For Martine

By 1970, Stan Getz had plenty reason to be proud of an already very successful career of approximately twenty years. To be sure, Getz had led a turbulent life of drug addiction and jail sentences. I remember reading an apology of his behavior by Getz in a Downbeat issue of the late 1950’s, which is decent or odd, depending on your view or mood. Contrary to general opinion, the withdrawal symptoms of cold turkey are not horrible or a hellish hurdle. Nasty, for sure. But the thing is, it’s harder to stay clean and Getz struggled all his life. Not least during his second marriage with Swedish Monica, who was his manager for many years. Quite the task. Getz was a tough customer. Few if any colleagues sang praise of his personality or were liable to break into my buddy your buddy misses you… On the contrary. When Getz had heart surgery later in life, trombonist Bob Brookmeyer commented: “Did they put one in?” Ouch.

Let there be no mistake that in the first place though, Getz was a gorgeous tenor saxophonist who released top-notch records as early as the early 1950’s on Norman Granz’s Norgran label and became the incredibly successful frontman of the bossa nova craze in the early 1960’s. What are your favorite Getz albums? Mine? Sweet Rain (1967) is something else. I think Live At Storyville 1 & 2 (1951) with Jimmy Raney is indispensable. Classic stuff. His ‘with strings’ album Focus is intriguing and groundbreaking. I’m crazy about The Steamer. (1956) But I’m even more crazy about Dynasty. Not only underrated and essential Getz, but a masterpiece of organ jazz as well.

The early summer of 1970 found Getz in Paris, where he visited the tennis tournament of Roland Garros. Why not? A bit of relaxation won’t hurt. Getz may have seen Czechoslovakian Jan Kodes beat Yugoslavian Zeljko Franulovic in the finals. Remember? Nope. There is no doubt that these cats hit a mean ball, otherwise they wouldn’t have come this far. But their match could hardly have been comparable to John McEnroe-Björn Borg or Nadal-Djokovic. At any rate, while in Paris, Getz also went to the Blue Note club. There he saw the trio of French organist Eddy Louiss, Belgian guitarist René Thomas and French drummer Bernard Lubat. As Getz put it in the liner notes of Dynasty: “I had been told that jazz in France was dead, and sure enough the club was almost empty. I walked in and my mouth fell open. I heard some hard core swinging jazz, everybody was dipping in, really taking their piece.” Getz arranged a couple of unannounced rehearsal engagements at the Chat Qui Pêche. “I decided then and there to present these musicians to the rest of the world.”

And so it came to pass. That is, after a short while. Getz had to hurry back to the USA when his father passed away in the fall. Back in Europe, the band was recorded at Ronnie Scott’s in London in March, enough material to fill a double LP set, though it is said that a small part was recorded in the studio. It’s an enchanting, hypnotic release. Don’t we all have big favorites? Don’t we all share stories of records that we never tire of hearing and that have found a special place in our hearts? Usually, these are the kind of albums that we discovered in our youth, making an indelible impression, mingling with the confusing and liberating forces of adolescence… It’s a kind of magic. Later in life, we still cherish and listen to these favorites. We can dream them up in a flash. They take you back to the innocence of youth, the internalization of hurt… You with me? You play any big favorites?

Musicians are aficionados and listeners as well. And vice versa, occasionally. Musicians know all about magic. And the absence of it. They love to be in a zone and work a bit of magic, to approach that feeling of innocence and internalize hurt, feelings that are recognized by the audience. I think that some people at the three nights at Ronnie Scott’s from March 15-17 definitely were in a zone. To begin with, Stan, Eddy, René and Bernard. I think that the audience at Ronnie Scott’s was damn lucky. Getz is flying like an eagle, swift and flexible, eyes on its prey, swooping from the edge of a breeze, winner taking all… He’s sweet, a father caressing his son. His tone is velvet, candlelight, golden earrings on a Parisian brunette. He hasn’t been nicknamed The Sound for nothing.

Getz was impressed by these European cats with good reason. Actually, René Thomas was relatively known in the United States. Getz may not have been familiar with him but the acclaimed guitarist from Liège in Belgium had made a big impression in New York and Montréal from 1958 till 1961. Collaborators Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins had expressed their admiration of Thomas. Thomas recorded one album for Riverside in the USA – Guitar Groove. It seems to me that Thomas is involved to no end, always playing as if his life is depending on it, always brimming with ideas. Then there’s the unmistakable gypsy-feeling of the legendary stylist from Wallonia, same area where Django Reinhardt was born and raised. And Toots Thielemans, from Les Marolles in Brussels. Lots of brilliant poets of sound out there.

Born on the island of Martinique and formerly a singer in the popular group Les Double-Six, Eddy Louiss was a pianist and organist that strayed from the Jimmy Smith-style and came into his own as a challenging player that crossed genres and peppered his lines with exotic twists and turns. His sounds veer towards the solid tones of Brian Auger and Keith Emerson. The band plays strong tunes by Louiss, one cooperation between Louiss and Thomas, two by René Thomas, one by Albert Mangelsdorf – Mona – and one standard by Bronislau Kaper – Invitation. The CD reissue includes Benny Golson’s I Remember Clifford.

None by Mr. Getz. Always the supreme interpreter, Getz delivers some of the finest tenor stories of his career… a snake charmer of the tantalizing Dum! Dum! Dum! and a Neo-Lestorian King of modal-bop-latin-funky-ish Our Kind Of Sabi, both highlights that feature classic Eddy Louiss… immaculate bass lines, subtle accompaniment, moving from satin cushion to church to brick wall sounds and swinging with swirling, chili pepper lines… the European answer to Larry Young. Getz stuck to his word. Plenty of room for ses amis to stretch out. Plenty of absolutely killer songs that are captivating from start to finish.

Dynasty is like waking up in the wee hours of the morning, drowsy, or as we say around here, sleepdrunk, realizing that you had the coolest dream, striving to return to it immediately, if only… Getz provides, Getz was in a zone. Did Jan Kodes found himself in a zone in his final match on Roland Garros? His zone perhaps, but not the zone. You have to ask Roger Federer for that kind of zone. How is it to be in that zone and how is it when it’s absent and is it something you can ignite? Who knows what the answer by Federer will be? What the answer of Getz would’ve been? Hard to tell. But we can take a wild guess.

Wild guessing also applies to the question why this band broke up. It is said that, when Getz wanted to take this European group to the USA, union disagreements put a stop to this. The other story though is that Getz had a beef with Lubat and wanted to add Roy Haynes to the group. Thomas and Louiss stood behind Lubat. More likely. End of a fantastic band.

Thomas / Jaspar Quintet Thomas / Jaspar Quintet (RCA Italiana 1962)

Theme for René.

Thomas Jaspar Quintet


René Thomas (guitar), Bobby Jaspar (tenor saxophone, flute), Amedeo Tommasi (piano), Maurizio Majorana (bass), Franco Mondini (drums A1-3, B1, B2 & B4), Francesco Lobianco (drums A4)


in October 1961 in Rome


as RCA Italiana 10324 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Theme For Freddie
Half Nelson
But Not For Me
Side B:
Hannie’s Dream
Bernie’s Taste
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
I Remember Sonny

It was a little town close to the border of Belgium and approximately fifteen kilometers from my birthplace in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen in The Netherlands. There was a gypsy trailer camp. Me and a buddy, we must’ve been about 18 years old, I was a blues band drummer in my spare time, he was a talented guitar player already much better at his craft than I would ever be at mine, for some reason visited a gypsy family. There was a guy that played fabulous gypsy jazz. I believe that he was a nephew of Fapy Lafertin.

Typically, almost everybody at the camp played one instrument or another, from the cradle-young to the Methusalem-old. The camp was situated a stones’ throw away from the little town. About twelve trailers, made from brick, plastic and corrugated plate, were hidden from view by grey skies, silent back ways and fields of waving corn.

Whenever I think about or am listening to René Thomas, my mind is cast back to this afternoon. Thomas was neither gypsy nor gypsy jazz guitarist, but he had plenty, unmistakable gypsy feeling. For the gypsies, for Thomas, music is like eating a grape. Like tying shoelaces.

The soul of René Thomas lighted up in Liège, Belgium in 1926. Thomas loved the music of his fellow countryman, Django Reinhardt (there you have it) and besides swing jazz played ‘manouche’ in his youth. Around 1947, Thomas and friends like saxophonist and flautist Bobby Jaspar, saxophonists Jacques Pelzer and Jack Sels, bassist Benoit Guersin and drummer Rudy Frankel were obsessed with bebop and grew into one of the first European bebop units. Thomas thrived in Paris in the early 1950’s, mate among young lions as pianist Francy Boland and saxophonist Barney Wilen.

As soon as Thomas landed in New York City in 1956, he made a big impression. Until 1961, Thomas played with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Jimmy Raney, Tal Farlow, Jim Hall, Zoot Sims, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean, Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter. Everybody was crazy about his playing. Rollins, who featured the guitarist on Sonny Rollins And The Big Brass, said: “I know a Belgian guitar player that I like better than any of the Americans I’ve heard.”

Fruitful years in Belgium and Europe, marked by associations with Kenny Clarke and organist Lou Bennett, preceded a period of depression in the late 1960’s. Thomas stepped back into the limelight in 1970, again with Clarke and another organist, the fabulous Eddy Louiss from the island of Martinique. Then Stan Getz asked for his services. Enter a stellar band, featuring Louiss and drummer Bernard Lubat. Their legacy is preserved on a fantastic live album, Dynasty.

Sadly, Thomas overdosed and passed away in 1974 in Santander, Spain.

René lives! By God, a fabulous guitar player. Put on any of his albums or features as sideman, whether it’s early work as René Thomas Et Son Quintette, mid-career Riverside recording Guitar Groove, stints with Chet Baker on Chet Is Back or Lou Bennett on Echoes Of My Church or Ingried Hoffmann on Hammond Tales, Dynasty and his last recording, Thomas/Pelzer Limited with Dutch pianist Rein de Graaff, and notice his unmistakable solid sound and ringing notes. Not to mention, when he’s at his very best and stretches out, and here you need to check out some of the stuff on the fantastic CD-set Remembering René Thomas on Fresh Sound, which provides his best biographical sketch so far, seemingly endless strings of ideas, an originality that bustles with vitality and oozes a desire to break away from harmonic resolutions.

He seems exceptionally involved with his playing, really into it, digging in, peeking from the dark through the curtains, sun rays slipping in… Dark thoughts, cigarette smoke curling to the brown-skinned ceiling. Clean, electrifying lines seem to come so easily to him, and you see him hunched over his Gibson ES 150, hiding behind Coke-bottle glasses, modestly pouring out the sweat drops of his soul. He came from Charlie Christian and Charlie Parker and most of all was a disciple of Jimmy Raney, who was God for so many guitarists, and mind you, even influenced John Coltrane, but what sets him apart from the maestro, in my mind, is abundance of feeling. Emotive sparks.

Plenty sparks fly on the before-mentioned Guitar Groove, his best-known album, quite logically because it was recorded on Riverside and in the USA, but Thomas Jaspar Quintet definitely holds it own. It demonstrates the agility of the finest European jazz musicians and a gift for original songwriting. The band, consisting of another European giant, tenor saxophonist and flautist Bobby Jaspar, who contrary to Thomas built a solid career in the USA, pianist Amedeo Tommasi, bassist Maurizio Majorana and drummer Franco Mondini, performs the usual suspects that Thomas had played for years, Sonny Rollins’s Oleo, Miles Davis’s Half Nelson, But Not For Me, but also original tunes as Thomas’s Theme For Freddie, I Remember Sonny and Tommasi’s Hannie’s Dream.

Highlights? Every tune’s got something going for it. The way Thomas kickstarts his story of Oleo, lingering on a note, and using plenty of repetition, is daring and spontaneous and the way he constructs his solo in the process is even more exciting. Theme For Freddie is sweet and lovely, what with Jaspar’s flute playing, brimming with life in the sultry summer afternoons of Brussels, a tune oozing with the age-old culture of the good life. Hannie’s Dream is another very “European” ballad. There is hard swing and the hard tenor of Jaspar to be heard, while Cole Porter’s Bernie’s Taste is taken at brisk, sprightly pace. For good measure, Thomas tackles another lovely standard, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, and him doing it solo, quite brilliantly I might add, adds to the variety of the program.

Although Thomas was still not a household name in the early seventies, his energy seemed undimmed. At that time, he was regularly coupled with the masterful Dutch drummer Eric Ineke, who played with Thomas between 1972 and 1974 in Dutch places like Utrecht, Zwolle and Laren and German cities such as Bremen and Wilhemshaven. (cuts from Utrecht and Wilhelmshaven ended up on Guitar Genius Vol. 1, good stuff regardless of the reverb-less mix) In his book The Ultimate Sideman and a big article that he himself wrote for the great Dutch jazz magazine Jazzbulletin, Ineke says:

“René was a very adventurous player who was not afraid to take some dangerous risks on the spot. His playing had an urgency which gave the music a forward motion, combined with a great swinging time feel and a lot of old-fashioned emotion. (…) I miss his playing, he was really responding to the drums, sometimes we were almost getting over the top.”

“René and his daughter Florence stayed at my place in The Hague. We had the night off and sat playing scrabble like a couple of good little church workers. René was very good at the game. Early next morning, guitarist Eef Aalbers was standing at the front door. He was dying to chat and play with René. René took his guitar and showed just how difficult that cadenza was that John Coltrane played at the end of the ballad I Want To Talk About You. He played it note by note from the top of his head. (..) The last time that we played together was in November 1974 in Café 19/20 in Amersfoort. Eef Aalbers had initiated this gig. Wim Essed was on bass. It was a night to remember. Emotions were running high and René and Eef played as if their lives depended on it. I would love to have a recording of this because it was unique: Eef Aalbers, young and hip super talent, together with René Thomas, a legend during his lifetime.”

“René Thomas was a humble personality and a unique guitar player, whose every note came from the depths of his soul. Belgium has put all but a couple of jazz stars on the map and René is unquestionably one of those.”

He remembers René. Giant of jazz guitar.

Chet Baker Chet Is Back! (RCA 1962)

Chet was back with a vengeance.

Chet Baker - Chet Is Back!


Chet Baker (trumpet), Bobby Jaspar (tenor saxophone, flute), Amedeo Tommasi (piano), René Thomas (guitar), Benoit Guersin (bass), Daniel Humair (drums)


on January 5-15 at RCA Italiana Studios, Rome


as RCA 10307 in 1962

Track listing

Side A:
Well, You Needn’t
These Foolish Things
Star Eyes
Over The Rainbow
Pent-Up House
Ballata In Forma Di Blues
Blues In The Closet

The man and the myth. Misunderstandings about Chet Baker are ubiquitous. Everything about the hip junkie and hobo oozed jazz. Cool cat, good copy. No shortage of hangers-on that love to share so-called badass experiences with the iconic trumpeter. The portrayal of Baker in Bruce Weber’s documentary Let’s Get Lost features wonderful music but is shamelessly romantic. The saga continues with the Dutch movie My Foolish Heart, a silly movie that is marked by outstanding trumpet playing by Dutch trumpeter Ruud Breuls. Better read Dutch bassist and writer Jeroen de Valk’s Chet Baker; His Life And Music, a close account of Baker’s life and career that debunks many myths, among those the belief that Baker was murdered in his Amsterdam hotel room and the stories that his teeth were kicked out and admirers recorded Baker’s trumpet playing outside the walls of jail in Italy. Plenty of good jazz stories remain once the fairy tales have worn out.

The man and the music. What can I say? Baker’s discography is extensive and getting back into the work of Baker now and then is a joy, picking old favorites and discovering new ones in the process. Inevitably, there are let-downs. Baker, in particularly bad shape in the 1960’s, made his share of mediocre records. Hours of Baker on end leads to a craving for a little variety, in the case of Baker the hunger for spicy hot trumpet. But no mistaking, there’s nothing like Chet Baker’s cushion-soft lyricism, pure gold, pure sunlight, pure melody, pure angels playing doctor in the snow…

Remember what Buddy de Franco reportedly said: “We were all jealous of his talent.”

And Hank Jones: “Chet’s playing affected many people, from the standpoint of its simplicity. (…) His playing was simple – perhaps! But he had complex chords in mind. He may have been dancing all around, but he was conforming exactly to the chord progressions of the tune, or of the tune as he had arranged the chords. It only appeared to be simple. This is probably the best expression of an artist – when the artists can make something appear to be simple. And yet underneath, it was complicated harmonically.” (Gene Lees, Waiting For Dizzy)

If they say so. And him that’s got ears and them that love Chet Baker cherish the man and the music, unless you once started off with his Mariachi Brass LP’s on World Pacific and couldn’t be bothered. So much to explore but time and again I fail to snatch Hazy Hugs from the bins, his record with the Amstel Octet on Timeless in 1985. Baker didn’t bother to take off his bathrobe and change garb for the photo shoot. Night and/or day, who cares. Having lately focused on ‘straight-ahead’ Chet, I naturally gravitated to revisits of And Crew on Pacific Jazz from 1956, a solid record featuring Bobby Timmons and In New York featuring Johnny Griffin and Philly Joe Jones on Riverside from 1958. Riverside’s label boss Orrin Keepnews put Baker in different settings – climaxing with the vibrant and smooth vocal album It Could Happen To You – but also opted for a hard bop album.

In New York is excellent though I feel that something’s missing. Hot trumpet perhaps. Both And Crew and In New York – as well as the excellent bop-inflected Playboys with Art Pepper and Phil Urso – were made in between problematic encounters with the law and jail sentences on drugs charges. In 1959, Baker knew the net was closing in and fled to Europe. During his first sojourn to Europe in 1955, Baker found himself in Paris, jazz-minded capital of France, smoky Bohemian cellar of existentialism, turtleneck-sweatered paradise of croissant and cool. Small wonder they loved Chet Baker over there. The Barclay label fancied the trumpeter and gave him the opportunity to record with fellow traveler and pianist Dick Twardzik. Twardzik tragically died from a heroin overdose in Paris. Their finest cooperation was The Chet Baker Quartet (or Rondette), a record of challenging compositions by Adam Zieff. Lovely record!

Baker was warmly received in Europe but it wasn’t all fun and games. To quote The Grateful Dead: “Trouble ahead, trouble behind, Casey Jones you better watch your speed.” The establishment was keen to bust Baker and the trumpeter finally was arrested and indicted in Italy, serving his sentence in Lucca. Baker finally got out of prison at the tail end of 1961. He recorded Chet Is Back in January 1962, arguably the finest of his bop and hard bop albums, quite amazing considering his circumstances.

The Bakerman was back on track, his sound confident and bright, his solos replete with ideas and impromptu deviations that make clear the trumpeter felt like a fish in the water. Baker’s free-spirited handling of Monk’s melody of Well, You Needn’t, which also features a spontaneous stop-time chorus, and the clarion-call of the high note that ends his solo of Parker’s Barbados are intriguing cases in point. Ever the great ballad man, Baker’s renditions of These Foolish Things and Over The Rainbow abundantly affirm Hank Jones’s theory of Baker’s greatness.

It’s a consistent album, completed by Star Eyes, Rollins’s Pent-Up House, Pettiford’s Blues In The Closet and Tomassi’s Balatta In Forma Di Blues. Baker is matched by his European partners. The pan-European fest features the Belgian guitarist René Thomas, tenor saxophonist and flutist Bobby Jaspar and bassist Benoit Guersin, Italian pianist Amedeo Tommasi and Swiss drummer Daniel Humair. They’re hot, fresh, bubbling with joy and anticipation. That’s what I love about Baker’s cooperation with the crème de la crème of Europe: regardless of excellent American counterparts, this one’s got the edge.

René Was Back as well, the guitarist from Liège had spent a couple of years in the USA and received compliments by cooperators Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis. Back in Europe improved his Jimmy Raney-based style. He’s one of a kind, intense, hypnotizing, employing a lilting, gypsy-like tone. The wealth of ideas and blues variations that Thomas displays on Blues In The Closet gets near Planet Parker. The spicy, mature playing of Bobby Jaspar, acclaimed tenorist and flutist that had already been featured on recordings with J.J. Johnson, Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane, is another great asset of Chet Is Back. A great day in Rome.

A couple of years later, Prestige released a series of records that were culled from one session: Smokin’, Groovin’, Comin’ On, Cool Burnin’ and Boppin’ featuring George Coleman and Kirk Lightsey. Omnipresent, lauded albums on jazz fora on the internet highway. But apart from the fact that copying the title word play of Miles Davis’s pioneering hard bop records on Prestige from 1955/56 was not a good idea, I’m not convinced of its so-called excellence. It’s a great band but Baker sounds uninspired and tired.

As straight-ahead jazz goes, Baker’s albums on Steeplechase, recorded live at Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen with guitarist Doug Raney and bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen are highlights of his career. Then there’s The Improviser from 1983, Chet Baker firing off bop crackers with a very good Scandinavian band. So much to explore…

Eddy Louiss Eddy Louiss Trio (Cy 1968/73)

Get ready for a post bop bomb by the powerhouse trio of organist Eddy Louiss, guitarist René Thomas and drummer Kenny Clarke.

Eddy Louiss - Eddy Louiss Trio


Eddy Louiss (organ), René Thomas (guitar), Kenny Clarke (drums)


in 1968 at Studio Davout, Paris


as Cy 3004 in 1973

Track listing

Side A:
No Smoking
You’ve Changed
Don’t Want Nothin’
Side B:
Blue Tempo
Groovin’ High

Eddy Louiss came up in the early sixties as a pianist in Paris, France, soaking up the music of American expatriate legends like Bud Powell, apprenticing in modern jazz like like-minded, passionate European jazz freaks as Daniel Humair, Rein de Graaff, Pierre Courbois, Gunther Hampel. Louiss mainly focused on playing the Hammond organ in the mid-sixties. His thorough grasp of the bebop language is evident. That, in itself, is notable. The great ones in the USA – pioneer Jimmy Smith, Don Patterson, Jimmy McGriff, Groove Holmes, Eddie Baccus, Lonnie Smith, Melvin Rhyne – mastered essential bop melodies. The average soul jazz organist would perhaps include a bit of bop in his song book, but would prefer to play a blues lick like Now’s The Time instead of Scrapple From The Apple. Nothing wrong with that, long live the groove. Just not bebop scales and the integration of upper intervals in the harmonic groundwork of standards.

Louiss was no stranger to the golden feathers of Bird. However, there’s more to Eddy Louiss, who was born in Paris in 1944 to a French mother and a father from the colony of Martinique. His father was a trumpet player and enrolled young Eddy in his band, who was exposed to all kinds of exotic rhythm that underlined the repertoire of his dad’s popular music outfit like the rumba, cha cha cha and paso doble. In Paris, melting pot of cultures, skin colors, scents, fashions… Louiss accompanied French chanteurs and chanteuses. In later life, Louiss played duets with such diverse personalities as pianist Michel Petrucciani and accordionist Richard Galliano. Undoubtedly, this colorful background contributed immensily to the multi-faceted, original playing style of Eddy Louiss.

The association of Louiss with tenor saxophonist Stan Getz in the early 70s put the French organist squarely in the limelight. Getz formed one of his finest but underrated groups of his career, also including drummer Bernard Lubat and the Belgian guitarist René Thomas. The group recorded the outstanding live album Dynasty in 1971. By then, Louiss had been cooperating with René Thomas for a number of years, a very fruitful bond, especially in combination with Kenny Clarke, expatriate drummer in Paris, France since the 50s, legendary inventor of bebop rhythm, major inspiration for European musicians to push their boundaries.

In 1968, Louiss, Thomas and Clarke recorded Eddy Louiss Trio at Studio Davout, Paris. It would enjoy a belated release in 1973. It’s a set of extraordinary, hard-driving organ jazz. No Smoking is a catchy bop line thriving on the stop-time device, Blue Tempo a modal burner that brings to mind John Coltrane’s Impressions. Both are compositions by Eddy Louiss. The trio performs Dizzy Gillespie’s Groovin’ High, Miles Davis’s Nardis, Kenny Clarke’s sleazy, mid-tempo blues line Don’t Want Nothin’ and the wonderful ballad by Bill Carey and Carl Fischer, You’ve Changed.

Louiss, whose bass figures are fat-bottomed and hi-level at any pace, fast or slow, and the group play a heavy Nardis. It definitely spells 1968 and one imagines Brian Auger scratching his chin, relieved he’s playing at another festival. Nardis features typical long, boppish Louiss lines, swirling in directions to the Near-East and Carribean Islands. Kenny Clarke, effortlessly and with abundant detail underpinning the driving force of the Louiss organ, is hors category. The way his concise solo segues back into the Spanish-tinged outro of Blue Tempo is so good it makes you laugh.

You’ve Changed features extraordinary playing by René Thomas, a guitarist of note who, let’s be honest, would be counted among the greats would he have been of American descent. His story of You’ve Changed is intense. No doubt in my mind that the guitarist from Liège, Belgium knew the lyrics by heart… You’ve changed.. that sparkle in your eyes is gone… your smile is just a careless yawn… you’re breaking my heart… you’ve changed… you’ve forgotten the words, I love you… each memory that we’ve shared, you ignore… every star above you, I can’t realize you’ve ever cared… you’ve changed… you’re not the angel that I once knew… no need to tell me that we’re through… it’s all over now, you’ve changed… Thomas reflects the lover’s resignation, but his double time, staccato and poetic phrases add a layer, they’re hitting the spot, bidding farewell but adding the afterthought that the lady is worse off without Monsieur Thomas.

Eddy Louiss is more level-headed. His explosive solo says: ok, so it’s over. Soit! Gotta move on! Period. Their stories comprise one of the nicest contrasts of this imposing set of organ jazz.

Lou Bennett Enfin! (RCA Victor 1963)

Get into the bopgospel groove with organist Lou Bennett’s Enfin!.

Lou Bennett - Enfin!


Lou Bennett (organ), René Thomas (guitar), Gilbert Rovere (bass), Charles Bellonzi (drums)


in 1963 in Paris, France


RCA Victor 430.115 in 1963

Track listing

Side A:
Moment’s Notice
I Remember Sonny
Loin Du Brésil
Side B:

An American In Paris, Lou Bennett never really gained recognition in the United States. Born in 1926 in Philadelphia (city of organ greats that also spawned, among others, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and Joey DeFrancesco) Bennett was a modern jazz pianist who took up the organ under the influence of Jimmy Smith in 1956. In 1960 he left the USA for France and, intermittingly, Spain. Bennett was quite popular in Europe and developed a solid body of work up until his death in 1997 in Le Chesnay, just outside of Paris. The recording start of his career in 1960, Amen, a cooperation with fellow expat, legendary drummer and bop innovator Kenny Clarke, set him off to a good start.

Ever heard of The Bennett Machine? No, it’s not one of Philip K. Dick’s long lost SF novels. On the contrary, The Bennett Machine was an invention by Lou Bennett that strived to make life easier and more interesting for the Hammond organist. In 1978, Bennett was tired of carrying around the heavy organ and did away with the lower keyboard, fixing electronic orchestral devices in the higher keyboard instead. Notably, Bennett, one of the greatest bass pedal players of organ jazz, coupled synths to the pedals and created a distinct double bass sound. Unfortunately, the Bennett Machine occasionally broke down due to faulty wiring.

By 1963, the Machine was perhaps already brewing in the back of Bennett’s mind, but the bass patterns that the organist played – the root notes of the feet pedals accompanying left hand bass playing – still sounded like any other first-rate modernist of the day. On Enfin!, Bennett’s group consists of guitarist René Thomas, bassist Gilbert Rovere and drummer Charles Bellonzi. Rovere and Bellonzi are Frenchmen, Thomas was born in Liege, Belgium, a guitar player of note, not that well-known but a musician’s musician who receives douze points from modern jazz freaks all over the world. His 1960 Jazzland album Guitar Groove is particularly admired.

Sound and style-wise, the church roots of Bennett mix smoothly with his bop experience. Hollers, screams and the fatherly, alternating whispering and booming voice of the minister that sooths and arouses the flock function as the cherries on top of his tacit bop runs. Bennett’s organ bop discourse is mirrored almost exactly by René Thomas, whose single-line approach – he’s one of many sons of Charlie Christian in this respect – gives the session a sophisticated and occasionally fiery glow. Thomas contributes nifty bop melodies like I Remember Sonny and Indicatif, the latter merely a theme that ends both sides of the LP. Bennett wrote the blues line Enfin with a mid-tempo, attractive bounce. The group also performs J.J. Johnson’s J.J., John Coltrane’s Moment’s Notice and Ornette Coleman’s (misspelled as Arnet) Jayne. (misspelled as Jane!) A trio of songs one rarely if ever encounters on organ jazz records, interesting repertory that is tackled immaculately and with a good groove.

Misspelling is not so bad. Poor sound quality is. It is as if the tape was handled with sandpaper. Perhaps there was no tape, just sandpaper. Perhaps the French Machine had trouble with faulty wiring too. If only Rudy van Gelder could’ve come to the rescue. But Rudy was across the great pond, busy defining brilliant sounds for posterity from Jimmy Smith, John Patton, Baby Face Willette and the like. With or without RVG, the striking mix of soul jazz and bebop that Lou Bennett brought forth on the organ was an experience to behold.

Listen to the full album on YouTube here.

For more on Lou Bennett, take a look at his extensive bio written by French guitarist André Condouant, who played with Bennett in the 80s. See here.