Toots Thielemans


Born: April 29, 1922; Brussels, Belgium  
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
Read more 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 Read less
Browse 1-3 of 3 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Rejoice / Katherine Jenkins
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001264702 Release Date: 03/10/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Steve Mac,  Seal,  Kevin Oldham,  gary barlow  ... 
    Performer:  Katherine Jenkins,  Toots Thielemans
    CD: $15.99
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  • 2.
    The French Collection / Hersch, Thielemans, Eubanks
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 49561 Release Date: 04/24/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Maurice Ravel,  Gabriel Fauré,  Francis Poulenc,  Claude Debussy  ... 
    Performer:  Kevin Eubanks,  Joey Baron,  Steve LaSpina,  Fred Hersch  ... 
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 3.
    John Williams - Greatest Hits 1969-1999
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 51333 Release Date: 11/02/1999   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  John Williams,  Leo Arnaud,  Leigh Harline
    Performer:  Toots Thielemans,  Itzhak Perlman,  Timothy Morrison,  Christopher Parkening  ... 
    Conductor:  John Williams
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Pops,  Skywalker Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $18.99
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