Toots Thielemans European Quartet: 90 Years (2012)

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Toots Thielemans European Quartet: 90 Years
NEA Jazz Master and harmonica playing legend Toots Thielemans turned 90 in April 2012, and the milestone has been marked by an exhibition, a street-naming in his honor and a couple of releases. The double-CD Yesterdays and Todays (Dreyfus, 2012) contained 37 previously unreleased recordings spanning a remarkable 65 years, from 1946 to 2011. Then in September, the Lincoln Center paid tribute to Thielemans in a concert where the maestro was joined by pianists Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
and Kenny Werner
Kenny Werner
Kenny Werner
b.1951
piano
, bassist Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
b.1953
bass
, pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias
Eliane Elias
Eliane Elias
b.1960
piano
, guitarist/vocalist Dori Caymmi
Dori Caymmi
Dori Caymmi
b.1943
guitar
and guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves
Oscar Castro-Neves
Oscar Castro-Neves
1940 - 2013
guitar
. Finally, Toots 90 (Challenge Records, 2012) captures the great man live between 2006 and 2011, and sounding in very good nick indeed.

Thielemans "Waltz for Sonny," for tenor great Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
, skips lightly on its feet, and introduces his sidemen of long-standing, pianist Karel Boehlee, bassist Hein Van de Geyn and drummer Hans Van Oosterhout
Hans Van Oosterhout
Hans Van Oosterhout
b.1965
drums
, in a series of short solos. Thielemans has lost none of his warm lyricism, and his phrasing remains arresting. Thielemans has recorded dozens of film soundtracks over the years and the self-penned "The Dragon" and Rogier van Otterloo's "Dat MIstige Rooie Beest" convey his uniquely nostalgic tone.

The crisp phrasing of Boehlee's solo graces the gently swinging "Sno Peas"; written by pianist Phil Markowitz, this tune was originally recorded by Thielemans with pianist Bill Evans
Bill Evans
Bill Evans
1929 - 1980
piano
on Affinity (Warner Bros, 1979). Another song from that album included here is singer/songwriter Paul Simon
Paul Simon
Paul Simon
b.1941
composer/conductor
's "I Do it for your Love." Thielemans toured with Simon in the 1970s and continues to include the number in his sets to this day. Thielemans' lyrical improvisation—wonderfully supported by Van de Geyn— provides a set highlight.

Thielemans' love affair with Brazilian music began with Honeysuckle Rose Aquarela Do Brazil (Philips, 1969) with singer Elis Regina
Elis Regina
Elis Regina
b.1945
vocalist
; continued through the mid-1980s with accordionist/guitarist Sivuca
Sivuca
Sivuca
1930 - 2006
accordion
; and into the 1990s on a series of more celebrated recordings with some of the modern greats of Brazilian music. Three Brazilian numbers are included here: Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
's "Wave" and "One Note Samba" sound as fresh as ever, with Thielemans particularly inspired; but it's samba/bossa nova pianist Luiz Eça's "The Dolphin" that stands out most for its subtle delivery from this highly attuned quartet.

Other highlights include a heartfelt eulogy to Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
1901 - 1971
trumpet
on the trumpeter/singer's "What a Wonderful World" and a rousing quartet workout of pianist Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
piano
's "In Your Own Sweet Way." Those wondering where "Bluesette" (Thielemans' signature tune) is will find it on the accompanying DVD, a 25-minute bonus of half a dozen tracks recorded in Tokyo and New York. Thielemans is in good voice and good humor too, introducing "Turk's Fruit," "This is the introduction to a song from a porno film."

It's hard not to get misty eyed during a moving "What a Wonderful World" or at the sight of the standing ovation from the Tokyo crowd at the end. Thielemans, naturally enough, has slowed down, but he has already announced concerts for 2013, and as this two-disc document beautifully illustrates, he still has the ability to touch the soul.

Track Listing: CD: Waltz for Sonny; The Dragon; Sno’ Peas; Wave; Dat Mistigie Rooie Beest; In Your own sweet Way; What a Wonderful World; One Note Samba; The Dolphin; I Do it for your Love: Old Friend. DVD: Autumn Leaves; Turks Fruit; Midnight Cowboy; Saint Thomas; Bluesette; What a Wonderful World.

Personnel: Toots Thielemans: harmonica; Karel Boehlee: piano; synthesizer; Hein Van de Geyn: double bass; Hans van Oosterhout: drums.

Record Label: Challenge Records

Style: Brazilian


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