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Toots Thielemans

Although preceded by Larry Adler (who has actually spent much of his career playing popular and classical music), Toots Thielemans virtually introduced the chromatic harmonica as a jazz instrument. In fact, ever since the mid-'50s, he has had no close competitors. Toots simply plays the harmonica with the dexterity of a saxophonist and has even successfully traded off with the likes of Oscar Peterson.

Toots Thielemans' first instrument was the accordion, which he started when he was three. Although he started playing the harmonica when he was 17, Thielemans' original reputation was made as a guitarist who was influenced by Django Reinhardt. Very much open to bop, Thielemans played in American GI clubs in Europe, visited the U.S. for the first time in 1947, and shared the bandstand with Charlie Parker at the Paris Jazz Festival of 1949. He toured Europe as a guitarist with the Benny Goodman Sextet in 1950, and the following year moved to the U.S. During 1953-1959, Toots was a member of the George Shearing quintet (mostly as a guitarist) and has freelanced ever since. He first recorded his big hit "Bluesette" (which featured his expert whistling and guitar) in 1961, and ever since has been greatly in demand (particularly for his harmonica and his whistling) on pop records (including many dates with Quincy Jones) and as a jazz soloist. Toots' two-volume Brasil Project was popular in the 1990s and found him smoothly interacting on harmonica with top Brazilian musicians. ~ Scott Yanow, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments


The feel and passion Toots produces from his instrument sends me away.
vhlep
A Master musician
I've been playing the chromatic harmonica since I was 7 yrs; now I am 77 yrs. I've enjoyed jazz since 1956 and played it soon after that, but I'm not even close to Toots. Bless him and keep him playing!!
The BRASIL PROJECT ROCKS !!!!
The versatility of Toots is MAD FLOW !!! X
anthony73905
Clean, well constructed solos. Never any BS or wasted notes. Technically superior in his younger years, more introspectiv e and mellow in his later years. For those that attempt to play the chromatic harmonic, his fluidity of playing sets the standard.
Only saw him once in SF at the Keystone Korner (small room). Beautiful player with great sensibility. John Lennon bought a Rickenbacker guitar because he saw a picture of Toots playing one.
When I was 10 years old first heard Blusette on the Saturday afternoon movie on WGN TV inChicago... . . T h e y would play it in between commercials. . . . H a u n t e d me untill my late 20's ...Who the artist was...Found out it was TT.... BIG Fan ever since...Can you say Virtouso!!
Finally found a way to improve on Toots’ incomparable artistry. It is done late, when the place is quiet, dogs sleeping peacefully and ... then you open the liquor cabinet. Whatever strikes your fancy (of the sipping variety) will do the trick. Just make sure there’s enough for a repeat, and maybe another. Cigar is optional.

Turn Toots up a little bit louder than your first instinct tells you to. That saves you a trip later to adjust the volume as you get deeper into the ensuring sweet haze.
He is simply the best! LOVE him!!!
marv870
Love it!
MLP
hey Toots you did such a good job playing your harmonica..I couldn't tell what instrument it was
williamcaubl e
make that .. Mitch Kashmar
williamcaubl e
I recommend Kasmar from California also...
I love this such a beautiful unique song
This man is fantastic when it comes to the hormonica, I love the style of music that he does play.
I like France or Paris!!!
Listen to Toots playing with Billy Joel on Leave a Tender Moment Alone, from Billy's An Innocent Man album. Great stuff.
Never do anything for money. Do it for love and the money will follow. These guy do what they love and sell it to people who love it too. Ergo, they never work. Play is fun. If it isn't it's work. DMB
triciahuebne r
This is a really nice version of Devil. Don't forget to give props to Ms. Peyroux! Great paring!
Wow, jazz harmonica, this is great! At first I thought he was playing an accordian, so skilled and smooth the sound; and he was an accordian player and guitar player. Toots is a jazz legend. The beauty of his innovative skill reminds me of players like Bela Flek's Flektones and other groups that use instruments in ways not heard before with an astounding level of skill and musicianship and beauty.
Sous Le Ciel De Paris makes me think of the soundtrack from Amelie : )
Love Toots especially the way he and Bill Evans's piano fit together - as two lovers intertwined - But if we, as we tend to, compare one to another, in terms of sheer virtuosity, we can't leave out the legendary Howard Levy of early (and again, recent) Flecktones fame - completely different styles, the man is beyond belief - He of course might deny this, but he knows PEACE
Belongs with all the greats in the top drawer. Virtuoso and iconoclastic contributor; did for the mouth harp what Les Paul did for the guitar!
pt38
Certainly one of my biggest influences for his sheer musicality.
I meet him in boston and have been playing the chromatic harmonica for over 30 years. Im so glade to have meet him
J.D. Simone
Larry Adler and Toots Thielman are my favorite harmonica players. I would like to hear more of them both
werner02
The man is simply a legend of jazz and one of the most entertaing musicians you will ever see and hear. Even at close to 90, his concerts and live playing are treat for the senses.
Uhhh... this isn't the first time I've questioned Pandora's mis-labeling and been right. This is Jamie Cullum. Perhaps he is doing a cover of Toots, but regardless, it's Jamie singing.
although it doesn't appear Pandora has any Howard Levy, he's probably one of the most technical harmonica dudes I've ever heard...he's on a couple of Bela Fleck's first couple albums...if you like Toots, check out Howard if you get a chance.
ackerbex3
wow- I am a fan of blues harmonica, but have never heard it played for jazz before this - the clarity and confidence of his playing is amazing. I didn't realize it was a harmonica at 1st! Thanks, Pandora, for yet another unique musical experience.
Ditto's Noel. Just isn't anyone out there like him.
have been listening to Toots for many years and beleive him to be the tops in what he does with the harmonica
brittazlin
He sounds so much like Jamie Cullum (or I suppose Jamie sounds like him) that I was almost hesitant to believe it wasn't Jamie. Wonderful! if you like one you'll like the other. LOVE love LOVE love
Don't see any reference to Toots' Apple Dimple Album done in Tokyo in 1979 with an all Japanese group! Just finished listening to Toots guesting on NPR's Mariam McPartland's program. Didn't know that Toots had a stroke but he seems to have recovered fully. He still is a unique jazz artist and plays wonderfully!
There are moments when you want music that speaks to your spirit with a language that only the soul truly grasps the full essence of. Toots has that groove and I for one am eternally thankful. Artistry is just not sufficient sometimes. This gentleman has a resonance with the cosmos that is awesome.
Toots is clearly the reigning master! Joel Brandon (R.I.P. Joel!) never got the chance to do that CD project that Toots wanted to do with him, but I guess that would have been too much like heaven on earth. The world can't handle that much beauty and innovation on one CD, so it wasn't meant to be...

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