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Interviews

Pruning the Tree: Seven Decades of Jazz with Toots Thielemans

By Published: April 13, 2004

TP: You and Kenny seem to have a special rapport – one that transcends any generational boundaries.

TT: Well, I think we both have a love of melody. You know, some of the younger musicians play all the notes and can do it very fast and are clever with scales. But in these fast flurries of notes, no melody comes out – at least to my ears. Kenny tells me that sometimes he tells young guys like that, “You cannot play a melody. Buy a bunch of Toots Thielemans records and learn how to do that.” Clever notes and chords are not necessarily music. And clever words and expressions are not necessarily poetry.

TP: When I saw you in St. Louis in 2001, you brought your guitar, but you only played it on one song in the set. Will you be playing more guitar on this tour?

TT: My left side is still a little weak from a stroke I had several years ago, but many of my friends encourage me when I tell them I can’t play that many notes on guitar. They say it’s quality, not quantity. That counts. You know, jazz is a language, and I’ve been trying to speak that language as a professional musician for sixty years. Every so often a giant comes along like Coltrane or Dizzy and adds new words to the language. So you always have to keep practicing. John Scofield called me the other day and he calls it “pruning the tree.” So everyday I practice and keep pruning.


Visit Toots on the web at www.tootsthielemans.com .

Photo Credit
Dennis Owsley



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