Toots Thielemans: Chez Toots
In Thielemans' hands the chromatic harmonica seems an extension of the human voice. His playing on "Ne me Quitte Pas," a dramatic duet with piano, exceeds the amount of expression conveyed by many singers. In fact, that seems to be the intention with this session; the harmonicist's increased level of expression contrasts with the singers' low-key approach.
Half of these songs include vocals. In the liner notes, Thielemans tells of his early childhood in Brussels, where his parents owned a sidewalk cafe. Recalling their Sunday entertainment and the start of his own music career at age four on the accordion, Thielemans says he designed this album in order to share visions from his earlier years. He accompanied Edit Piaf and Charles Trenet in 1946, and the guest singers on Chez Toots present a similar style. Dianne Reeves sings the snappy waltz "Un Jour tu Verras" in French, maintaining a blase approach toward the contents. She and Thielemans trade choruses, and it's an opportunity for the instrumental quartet to pick up the emotional level somewhat. Similarly, Diana Krall offers a cool chorus of "La Vie en Rose" with French lyrics to contrast with the harmonicist's livelier approach. Dancing lightly around the room, Shirley Horn sings "La Valse des Lilas" in a whispering manner. Philip Catherine trades melodic passages with Thielemans on "Dance for Victor." The ensemble offers this gentle tribute to Victor Feldman with an improvised swing and feel for the jazz elements. It's a vintage Johnny Mathis, with clear, accurate and articulate phrases, who adds "Les Moulins de Mon" (Michel Legrand's "The Windmills of Your Mind"). The contrast with harmonica works in reverse, as Mathis offers a more dramatic delivery for his three choruses in English while Thielemans tones it down somewhat through his portions of the arrangement. A six-member vocal ensemble performs "Que Reste - T'il de nos Amours" (the familiar "I Wish You Love") in French, and Ravel's "Adagio Assai from Concerto Piano and Orchestra in G Major." Vocalist Chip joins the harmonicist on "Hymne a L'Amour," a slow blues-drenched ballad. Her contralto voice delivers the seductive-sounding French lyrics to further the small-town informal atmosphere being presented by the harmonica master and his guests.
Track Listing: Sous Le; La Vie en Rose; Valse No. 2; Dance for Victor; Hymne a L'Amour; Que Reste - T'il de nos Amours; Old Friend; Un Jour tu Verras; For my Lady; Ne me Quitte Pas; Les Moulins de Mon; Le Temps des Cerises; La Valse des Lilas; Adagio Assai from Concerto Piano and Orchestra in G Major; Moulin Rouge.
Record Label: Private Music