Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jean Babtiste “Toots” Thielemans (1922 – 2016) - # 2

Georg Lankester gives his account of the career of Toots Thielemans. The article is in two parts, first part is accessible here,  below follows the second part.

Toots Thielemans, the genius on the harmonica  - Part 2

Toots and his harmonica
Studio activities

Because he could join the studio group of ABC-Television, this generated more money than the preceeding years playing all the time. His creativity soon showed out and in the film “Midnight Cowboy” – made in 1969 – his background improvisations can be heard till the end.

From about 1970 Thielemans divided his time between studio activities and playing Jazz. However, in those years he also performed with well-known singers out of the world of entertainment such as Peggy Lee, Quincy Jones, Bill Evans, but also Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon – and not to forget: Jazz piano player Herbie Hancock.

 In 1972 Jean even made a tour in Russia. In the same year he composed music for the movie “The Getaway” and in ’75 he performed with Oscar Peterson in Montreux so that he can be reckoned to the best Jazzmen of that time. And….his versality enabled him to give lessons at the “Eastman School of Music”, At this famous American Institute for Music in New Yersey one can study Classical music as well as Jazz.

Still maintaining his independancy in the Eighties, he can often be found in European countries where he performed e.g. with the Swedish lady singer Sylvia Vrethammer.
Toots and Sivuca outside Chiko's Bar, Brazil
Amazing is that Jean also travelled to Brazil where he played with the legendary and world famous accordionist Sivuca a.o.. “Toots”  showed great affinity to the ‘bossa nova’ and liked to make long improvisations on its typical rhythm and the beautiful diminished chords. Yet he found also time to jam with Jazz musicians overthere.

A beloved musician  

Toots in high spirits with his beloved instrument
He also often visited Sweden, as known, a jazz-minded country. When he gave concerts, he used to  speak to the audience in the Swedish language which made him highly popular. In a Belgian documentary one can feel the atmosphere he creates when announcing and performing. But he always had contact with his listeners, wherever he gave his concerts.

He whistles, plays guitar and harmonica in a unparalleled way, performs with Shirley Horn, made ‘jingles’  and tunes for TV commercials. Moreover he composes and takes care of the music for the highly popular children series “Sesam Street”.

The most astonishing in all  those activities is that he never choose an easy way in bringing his music. He was not afraid to play the most difficult melodic lines. Moreover his playing, very much based on the bebop,mainly inspired by John Coltrane, is also easy accessible to the modern electronic way of listening to music.

To end this survey on the career of “Toots” Thielemans, l’ll insert a video showcasting a lengthy live performance by this great artist. The video was recorded at the Hague Jazz Festival in 2010 and features “Toots” Thielemans’ Quartet – enjoy!

Georg Lankester

With thanks to Eddy Determeijer and Jef Van Gool for their photos
Any additional info  is most welcome, contact me at

Retrospect Keep Swinging (old) Oscar Aleman Choro Music Flexible Records Hit of the Week-Durium Friends of the Keep Swinging blog Keep Swinging Contributions

No comments:

Post a Comment