Toots Thielemans

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Jean-Baptiste "Toots" Thielemans (2006)

Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans , known as "Toots" Thielemans (born April 29, 1922 in Brussels , Belgium ; †  August 22, 2016 there ) was a Belgian modern jazz musician ( harmonica , guitar , pipes ). Like no other, he “helped the harmonica to gain respect in jazz.” One of his most famous works as a composer is the background music for the US children's television series Sesame Street .

life and work

Thielemans performing live in Brussels in 1975

At the age of three Thielemans began to learn the accordion , at the age of seventeen he discovered the chromatic harmonica and from 1940 began to play the guitar based on the model of Django Reinhardt . While studying mathematics, he performed in GI clubs in Belgium. In 1950 he was part of Benny Goodman's All-Star Band for the duration of their European tour . In 1951 he went on a concert tour with Bobbejaan . In 1952 he emigrated to the United States. In Philadelphia he was a member of the Charlie Parker All Stars. From 1953 to 1959 he was a member of the George Shearing quintet (he is sometimes listed on recordings as John Tillman). In 1957 he recorded his debut album “ Man Bites Harmonica! “Under his own name (with Pepper Adams and Kenny Drew ). With Bluesette he composed and played one of the great success melodies from the field of jazz, with which he had his breakthrough. Herb Alpert recorded a composition by Thielemans, Ladyfingers , for his most famous album Whipped Cream & Other Delights in 1965.

He can also be heard in films such as Asphalt-Cowboy , The Getaway , Sugarland Express , In Search of Mr. Goodbar , Hard Rain or French Kiss, as well as in the TV production Sesame Street . He also played his harmonica on Bill Evans' 1978 album Affinity . Thielemans also played with Ella Fitzgerald , Quincy Jones , Paul Simon , Billy Joel , Jaco Pastorius and many others. In the 1980s he often performed in all-star casts around Dizzy Gillespie . In the 1990s he performed with Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil at numerous festivals. Even at the old age of over 90, he still gave concerts regularly, but announced on March 13, 2014 that he would end his career. Two previously planned performances in Antwerp in March and May have been canceled.

As a jazz harmonica player, he had the greatest influence, for example on Hermine Deurloo from the Netherlands and many other modern harmonica jazz musicians. Thielemans, who also taught at the Manhattan School of Music , also taught students such as Tim Welvaars and Enrico Granafei .

He got his nickname Toots from Toots Mondello and Toots Camarata .

Prizes and awards

From left: Toots Thielemans, Adele Girard and Joe Marsala in 1948 in front of the Onyx , one of the jazz clubs on 52nd Street , New York, photograph by William P. Gottlieb

In 2004 Thielemans was honored with the German Jazz Trophy for his life's work . In 2009 he received the NEA Jazz Masters Fellowship, the highest honor for jazz musicians in the USA. In 2001 he was raised to the status of baron by the Belgian King Albert II .

Discography (selection)

Filmography (selection)

  • 1974: Dunderklumpen
  • 1979: Head over Heels
  • 1984: Two crooks in a tight spot (Markzware jongens)
  • 1987: The Little Public Prosecutor
  • 1985: A woman to fall in love with (Une femme ou deux)


Web links

Commons : Toots Thielemans  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Belgian jazz legend: Toots Thielemans died . APA article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung , August 22, 2016.
  2. Wolf Kampmann: Reclams Jazzlexikon , p. 515.
  3. ^ Summerfield: The Jazz Guitar , p. 198
  5. Maarten Lievens: Toots Retires ( Memento of the original from 23 August 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Toots Thielemans website, March 13, 2014, accessed August 22, 2016. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /