337

Toots Thielemans: Do Not Leave Me

Budd Kopman By

Sign in to view read count
Toots Thielemans: Do Not Leave Me 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 call it a miscellaneous instrument.

How many other jazz musicians can be identified by one name? To hear him is to love him, or at least his music, but the reality is that they are one and the same. Do Not Leave Me is a wonderful example of the rapport that Thielemans has built with his fans in general and this live audience in particular. On the last two tracks, Thielemans plays guitar (not badly at all!), and on "Bluesette (which he wrote, and is "his song") he whistles and plays guitar in unison, which he is famous for and, apparently uncoached, the audience whistles along with him.

In talking about the formation of this touring band, Thielemans says, "From the first note, I felt something was happening. We were not playing anything new or revolutionary—just good old reliable standards and all shades of blues.... This particular band does seem to have that special something. Pianist Fred Hersch is a very sensitive player, while bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron show that they can turn on a dime, kicking it up and bringing it down. The music is very dynamic and dramatic, full of pathos one moment then swinging like crazy the next. Thielemans is obviously the leader, but he gives his bandmates plenty of room to play.

He refers to "Do Not Leave Me as the "ultimate love song (read the rest here), quoting the words, "just let me be the shadow of your hand ... the shadow of your dog ... Do not leave me," and saying that he tries to play the words of Jacques Brel, not just the notes of the melody, as many other great players like Lester Young and Ben Webster have said should be done.

The musical pinnacle of the show is a twenty-minute version of "Blue'N Green." The first half is given over to an ethereal introduction, with only the slightest hint of the tune and nothing of the famous vamp. Once the real tune's identity is announced by the piano with the rhythm section, things take off with driving solos by Thielemans and then Hersch as Johnson and Baron wash wave after wave of rhythm against them. The feel changes a few times to hard driving swing as Johnson and Baron walk tightly together, which leads to a truly beautiful and dramatic solo by Johnson.

Thielemans is a world treasure, and if you haven't heard him, this might be the perfect place to start.

Visit Toots Thielemans on the web.

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

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

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Milan Records | Style: Brazilian


Shop

More Articles

Read Circles CD/LP/Track Review Circles
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Windmills CD/LP/Track Review Windmills
by Edward Blanco
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Ugly Beautiful CD/LP/Track Review Ugly Beautiful
by David A. Orthmann
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Trickster CD/LP/Track Review Trickster
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 24, 2017
Read Caipi CD/LP/Track Review Caipi
by Geannine Reid
Published: March 24, 2017
Read United CD/LP/Track Review United
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 23, 2017
Read "For The Unknown" CD/LP/Track Review For The Unknown
by Karl Ackermann
Published: April 6, 2016
Read "Triloka: Music for Strings and Soloists" CD/LP/Track Review Triloka: Music for Strings and Soloists
by Ian Patterson
Published: March 16, 2017
Read "The Picasso Zone" CD/LP/Track Review The Picasso Zone
by Franz A. Matzner
Published: February 23, 2017
Read "Moons" CD/LP/Track Review Moons
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: May 16, 2016
Read "Live At Blues Alley" CD/LP/Track Review Live At Blues Alley
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: August 4, 2016
Read "Winds Of Mouth" CD/LP/Track Review Winds Of Mouth
by Mark Corroto
Published: April 8, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: DOT TIME RECORDS | BUT IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!