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Toots Thielemans: Do Not Leave Me (2005)

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Toots Thielemans: Do Not Leave Me How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

This digitally remastered release of Do Not Leave Me is a must hear for collectors and fans alike. Toots Thielemans' sound and approach to jazz improvisation on harmonica strongly appeal to both heart and mind, and this 1987 recording amply shows why.

A supple, driving rhythm section featuring pianist Fred Hersch, bassist Marc Johnson, and drummer Joey Baron gives Thielemans sufficient support to float his mastery at will. He pleads, prods and probes, begs, borrows and steals on the gentle, bittersweet title track by Jacques Brel. Here, as well as on "Blue 'n Green —which pleasingly morphs into "All Blues, as on the original Miles Davis classic—Hersch vividly demonstrates the "harmonic and pianistic colors that so appeals to Thielemans.

Baron is a chameleon who feels comfortable under the skin of many a rhythmic style, but he performs best when he rides and drops bombs during a fast scorcher, like the double-time section of "All Blues. Styles associated with Scott LaFaro, George Mraz, and Eddie Gomez all show up in Marc Johnson's playing, with some Sam Jones-like bippity Bong Dong ba-di-ba-de Ong bong for good measure. Johnson's synthesis is refreshing.

The interpretation of "Stardust is gentle and warm like a quiet storm, not maudlin or purple. Marc Johnson takes an especially deft solo on "Autumn Leaves, but Thielemans rules the day on that chestnut, which was given a memorable treatment by Miles and Cannonball on Somethin' Else. "Velas, which Thielemans plays on harmonica with Quincy Jones, is given a backbeat groove by Baron, Johnson thumping the upright with an electric funk bass flair. "Bluesette is a delight, evoking memories of when I heard this version on WBGO when it came out in the late '80s.

Thielemans whistles the 3/4 tune and accompanies himself on guitar for the melody, as well as his blues and beboppish solo, and the audience itself becomes a participant by whistling the well-loved composition. A tasty set by an elastic group that's tight and loose when and where it should be.

Track Listing: Do Not Leave Me; Blue 'N Green; Stardust; Autumn Leaves; Velas; Bluesette.

Personnel: Toots Thielemans: harmonica, guitar, vocal, whistling; Fred Hersch: piano; Marc Johnson: bass; Joey Baron: drums

Record Label: Milan Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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