Thomas Champagne

An alto saxophonist of striking versatility, who happily goes back and forth between different generations, genres and even artistic disciplines.

16.12, 21.00, Herman (Rue de Roumanie 2, Saint-Gilles):
Thomas Champagne Random House


Who is… Thomas Champagne?

It is obvious that being born and bred in Brussels, Thomas Champagne (°1978) studies at different conservatories of music in the city. Previously, he had, of course, taken classes at the music academy.

His first official outing happens in 2008 with his own trio, Charon’s Boat. The trio gets casted for the theatre play “Promenade de santé” by Nicolas Bedos and goes on tour with the theatre company.

With The Sidewinders, Champagne is able to express his love of hard bop in the company of Eve Beuvens, Michel Paré, Nicholas Yates, Jan de Haas and Toon Van Dionant. The name of the group is quite simply an ode to one of Lee Morgan’s iconic albums. So far, they released only one album (‘A Little Busy’, 2012).

Additionally, there is Kind of Blue Tribute with veterans the likes of Bruno Castellucci, Michel Mainil and Gino Lattuca.

On a completely different note, there is UTZ conducted by Renato Baccarat, where the emphasis lies on a crossover between rock, pop and jazz with strong Brazilian influences.

Another cross-over project in which the saxophonist is participating, is Al Manara, a mix of fifteen Belgian and Palestinian musicians. The stunning DVD recording of the concert in the Tournai cathedral is an absolute must-see.

With pianist Christian Claessens, he ventures into the work of Keith Jarrett, Enrico Pieranunzi and Egberto Gismonti.

As a composer, Thomas regularly delivers work for documentaries, dance productions and theatre companies. In addition, there is also GribouJazz, a programme for children aged 3 to 8 where they get acquainted in a playful manner with the various aspects of jazz using music and many of his own original illustrations.

His most recent band is Random House with at his side Guillaume Vierset, Ruben Lamon and Alain Deval. Champagne describes it himself as “post-Coltrane grooves interspersed with atmospheric melodic forms with the guitar and the alto saxophone as driving forces”. After a maxi-single and an EP (‘extended play’), the group will release an official debut CD in 2017.


What is…

... your favourite spot in Brussels?

I will not point out one specific spot but rather the municipality of Saint-Gilles as a whole. Saint-Gilles is where I live and where I feel at home everywhere. Whether I am going for a coffee, just a stroll or to the park with the children, you can do whatever you want without any problem. Because of its multiculturalism and the presence of various social backgrounds, there is an energy you will not find anywhere else in Brussels.


… the last CD or album you bought for yourself?

‘Trio New York II’ by tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin where he performs alongside Gary Versace on Hammond B3 and Gerald Cleaver on drums. I purchased this CD in New York. They only play standards and it all seems simple but the combination of freedom and grooves is just amazing. I have even attended some classes by Eskelin because I truly admire his approach and vision.


… your fondest memory of a recent concert?

That was during my stay in New York as well where I have seen bassist Stephan Crump perform with his band Rhombal. The other musicians were Ellery Eskelin (well yes, him again), Adam O’Farrill on trumpet and Tyshawn Sorey behind the drums. The combination of the two wind instrument players reminded me of Jeroen Van Herzeele with Laurent Blondiau or also more recently Steven Delannoye and Jean-Paul Estiévenart. These six weeks in New York were a very enriching experience but we certainly have to realise that here, in our small country, there are a lot of interesting things happening.


… your favourite quote of the moment?

I have it from my wife’s grandmother. “If you have a problem and there is no solution, it does not make any sense to worry about it. And if there is a solution, why then should you worry about it?”. It is for my part wise advice to tackle the small problems of everyday life. I am well aware that it is not appropriate everywhere at all times. For the Al Manara project for instance, I have worked with Palestinians and it would be unthinkable to sweep aside their problems with such a witticism.