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 and Kenny Werner, bassist Marc Johnson, pianist/vocalist Eliane Elias, guitarist/vocalist Dori Caymmi and guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves. Finally, Toots 90 (Challenge Records, 2012) captures the ...read more
Miles Davis never liked the use of the term legend," to describe a living musician, but perhaps an exception ought to be made in the case of Toots Thielemans, who ranks with the great Larry Adler as one of the greatest harmonica players, one for whom music has specially been composed. On ˂em˃Live˂/em˃, together with his European Quartet, however, Thielemans plays a collection of standards and a couple of his own compositions, brought to life on his chromatic harmonica, with swirling legato and a unaffected virtuosity that have come to be the hallmark of his playing since the early '40s. ...read more
Jean Toots" Thielemans' musical education started early--he had already started to play the accordion at the age of three. But it was his skill on the harmonica that brought him international fame, and it's that skill which is to the fore on European Quartet Live, featuring a set of well-known tunes taken from concerts in 2006, '07 and '08. It's the second Thielemans live album to be released in 2010 after The Live Takes, Volume 1 (In + Out Records), which was recorded in the '90s and with a different lineup of musicians, but it also includes versions of the ...read more
While studio recordings can capture a musician's sound, live performances capture the essence of their being and the soul within the sound. When an iconic artist like harmonica giant Toots Thielemans isn't in the studio or creating a prearranged live recording, he's still traveling the globe and bringing his music into the clubs and concert halls of the world. While most of that music never shows up on record, a little bit occasionally seeps into the marketplace. The music on The Live Takes, Vol. 1--like the songs on Sonny Rollins' Road Shows Vol. 1 (Doxy Records, 2008)--wasn't recorded with the ...read more
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At its half-way point, the 2007 TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival's sixth day presented a series of concerts that demonstrated just how broad repertory jazz can be. While too many artists retread overly played material and bring nothing new to the table, the performances at the 5:00 PM Connoisseur Series, 8:30 PM Concert Under the Stars events, and 10:30 PM Studio series demonstrated that, ...read more
The greatest harmonica player of the 20th Century, Toots Thielemans, is showing no signs of slowing down at 84 years of age, still in demand at jazz festivals and concert venues throughout the world. One More For The Road finds him accompanied by strings and a star lineup of singers who interpret the songbook of Harold Arlen.
Songs like Come Rain Or Come Shine, Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, One For My Baby (And One More For The Road), Stormy Weather, It's Only A Paper Moon and Over The Rainbow are part of an impressive ...read more
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 ...read more
That sound! That sound, which if you are old enough, you can still remember from the first time you heard it on Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years. The sound, and the man behind it, is the direct musical expression of this phrase from Thielemans' website: I feel best in that little space between a smile and a tear. That space is where the romantic, bluesy, and utterly enchanting Thielemans resides. He perennially wins awards for Best Instrumentalist for Miscellaneous Instruments, but as Clifford Brown said to him, Toots, the way you play the harmonica they should not ...read more
The title of “jazz legend” is thrown around a bit loosely these days, but there’s no doubt that Toots Thielemans clearly qualifies for that accolade. Born in 1922 in Brussels, Belgium, Jean Baptiste Thielemans has worked as a professional musician for almost six decades. He’s played with the likes of Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker, George Shearing, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Quincy Jones, Bill Evans, Pat Metheny, Ella Fitzgerald, Jaco Pastorius and a host of others during that time. Although he got his professional start as a guitarist, Thielemans stylish, emotive work on harmonica pioneered its use as a jazz instrument. ...read more
The harmonica can send a lyrical message as well as any singer can, if it's played right. Toots Thielemans has been sending out the right message for over 40 years. But it's his earliest years, growing up in his native Belgium, that the harmonica master reflects upon by constructing this album of torch songs with French lyrics. The arrangements are rooted in straight-ahead jazz, but with a twist. Thielemans is supported by pianist Bert van den Brink, bassist Hein Van de Geyn and drummer Andre Ceccarelli. Several of the guests were recorded with this quartet in a live setting; others ...read more
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