Sunday, 3 July 2011

Toots Thielemans

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans (born 29 April 1922, Brussels, Belgium), known as Toots Thielemans, is a Belgian jazz musician well known for his guitar and harmonica playing as well as his whistling. Thielemans is credited as one of the greatest harmonica players of the 20th century. In 2009 he became NEA Jazz Master, the highest honour for a jazz musician in the United States.

Thielemans started his career as a guitar player. In 1949 he joined a jam session in Paris with Sidney Bechet, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Max Roach and others. In 1949 and 1950 he participated in European tours with Benny Goodman, making his first record in Paris with fellow band member, tenor saxophonist Zoot Sims. In 1951 he went on tour with Bobbejaan Schoepen.

He moved to the US in 1952 where he was a member of Charlie Parker's All-Stars and worked with Miles Davis and Dinah Washington. He played and recorded with Ella Fitzgerald, Jaco Pastorius, Peggy Lee, The George Shearing Quintet, Quincy Jones, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, The Happenings, Astrud Gilberto, Shirley Horn, Elis Regina and others.

During the 1980s he performed with bassist and composer/bandleader Jaco Pastorius in ensembles ranging from duet to the Word of Mouth Big Band. In 1983 he contributed to Billy Joel's album An Innocent Man, and his trademark harmonica can be heard on "Leave a Tender Moment Alone." A year later, he appeared on the Julian Lennon song "Too Late For Goodbyes" from the album Valotte. In 1984, he recorded the final album of Billy Eckstine (I Am A Singer), featuring very beautiful ballads and standards arranged and conducted by Angelo DiPippo. In the 1990s Thielemans embarked on theme projects that included world music. In 1998 he released a French flavoured album titled "Chez Toots" that included the Les Moulins De Mon Coeur (The Windmills of Your Mind) featuring guest singer Johnny Mathis. Apart from his popularity as an accomplished musician, he is well liked for his modesty and kind demeanor. In his native Belgium, he is also popular for describing himself as a Brussels "ket", which means "street kid" in old Brussels slang. He received a joint honorary doctorate from the Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium) and in 2001 Thielemans was ennobled a baron by King Albert II of Belgium.

In 2005 he was nominated for the title of The Greatest Belgian. In the Flemish version he ended 20th place, in the Walloon version he ended 44th place. In October 2008, he was honored with the 2009 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship. On 23 January 2009, he joined Philip Catherine on stage at the Liberchies(Belgium) church in memory of the 100th anniversary of Django Reinhardt's birth.

Thielemans may have had a significant impact on The Beatles, John Lennon in particular, during the group's pre-fame formative years. While performing in 1959 in Hamburg, Lennon (sometimes with fellow Beatle George Harrison in tow) would often go over to the club where Toots was performing (in a noontime residency) as a member of The George Shearing Quintet. Lennon was evidently taken with Toots' harmonica playing and guitar selection: an electric American made Rickenbacker with a short scale neck.

Based on the sound Lennon heard, he decided to purchase a natural alder wood "alderglo" colored three pickup Rickenbacker 1958 model 325 Capri guitar with a short scale as Harrison would recall to various interviewers many years later. This guitar, often fondly referred to as the "Holy Grail" of all guitars, was customized and tinkered with many times over the years by Lennon and re-painted to jetglo black: it was the guitar he played on The Beatles first and third appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show during February 1964). Lennon also adopted the chromatic harmonica, which was used on the group's early recordings.

East Coast West Coast - Toots Thielemans (1994)

01 - Naima
02 - In Walked Bud
03 - Dear Old Stockholm
04 - Groovin' High
05 - Con Alma
06 - In Your Own Sweet Way
07 - Giant Steps
08 - Waltz for Debby
09 - A Child Is Born
10 - Take Five
11 - Spring Can Really Hang You up the Most
12 - Ornithology
13 - Blue in Green

Toots: Harmonica in all

Joshua Redmand: tenor sax
Terence Blanchard: trumptet
John Scofield: guitar
Christian McBride: bass
Lyle Mays: piano
Mike Mainieri: vibes
Troy Davis: drums
Bruce Barth: piano

WEST COAST: 8 - 13
Herbie Hancock: piano
Charlie Haden: bass
Robben Ford: guitar
Peter Erskine: drums
Ernie Watts: tenor sax
Alan Broadbent: piano
Jerry Goodman: violin
Michael Lang: piano
Dave Carpenter: bass

The Fox - Urbie Green & Toots Thielemans (1976)

01 Another Star 7:14
02 Goodbye 2:57
03 Mertensia 4:58
04 You Don’t Know What Love Is 3:59
05 Manteca 6:35
06 Foxglove Suite (arr. R.Wagner) 7:27
07 Please Send Me Someone to Love 5:31

Urbie Green – trombone
Fred Gripper, Mike Abene – piano
Barry Miles – synthesizer
Mike Mainieri – vibes
Eric Gale – guitar
Toots Thielemans – harmonica
Joe Farrell – soprano saxophone
Jeremy Steig – flute
Anthony Jackson – electric bass
George Mraz – acoustic bass
Andy Newmark, Jimmy Madison – drums
Sue Evans, Nicky Marrero – percussion
David Matthews – footsteps


The Whistler And His Guitar - Toots Thielemans (1964) 

01. Wives And Lovers
02. It’s The Talk Of The Town
03. Indian Nuts
04. Manhattan
05. Falling In Love With Love
06. It’s Only A Paper Moon
07. The Valley Whistler
08. Deep Purple
09. Marionette
10. Star Dust
11. Bluesette
12. Duke’s Place



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