Toots Thielemans

Toots Thielemans is one of the most innovative jazz musicians of the latter part of the 20th century. Born Jean Thielemans in Belgium in 1922 and in 1952 he emigrated to the United States where he began his jazz career playing with the likes of Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker. He is best known for his harmonica work, but he also plays other instruments (guitar and well known for his whistling). It is pretty much an accepted fact that he introduced the harmonica to jazz music.

"Do Not Leave Me" is a reissue of an earlier Thielemans recording. This was recorded in the summer of 1986 at Palais Des Beaux Arts in Brussels five years after Toots had suffered and then recovered from a large stroke. Nothing about the way he plays on this album would give away the fact that he had suffered a stroke. On this recording Toots is supported by Fred Hersch on piano, Marc Johnson on bass and Joey Baron on drums. It is always interesting to listen to an artist live and without the benefit of numerous takes and studio manipulations because it tends to give the listener a better gauge of the musicians talent and passion for their music. The longest number of this 6 track cd is an interesting 20 minute medley of Miles Davis's "Blue 'N Green" and "All Blues". Thielemans also performs his most famous number "Bluesette", which involves him whistling and playing guitar at the same time. With his harmonica, Thielemans is able to extract melancholy from an instrument like few others. This recording shows how Thielemans was able to keep his sound contemporary even towards the end of his career. This album should be proof for any doubting Thomases who do not believe that the harmonica should be considered a jazz instrument.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *