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Verve Jazz Masters 59: Toots Thielemans

Toots Thielemans

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Album Review

The remarkable jazz harmonica player Toots Thielemans has essentially had no competition ever since he decided to fully focus on that instrument, rather than the guitar, in the early 1950s. This sampler CD, Verve Jazz Masters 59 is, fortunately, programmed in chronological order, contains some rather rare tracks, and covers a wide period of time although it mostly focuses on the '70s and '80s. Thielemans is first heard with the George Shearing Quintet (which at the time included vibraphonist Cal Tjader) in 1953 playing "Undecided" and "Body and Soul." The '60s are represented by a quartet version of his "Flirt" and a forgettable movie theme with Quincy Jones & His Orchestra. A highlight is Thielmans whistling on "Hummin'" with Jones in 1970. The rendition of "Bluesette" (Thielemans one big hit) from 1975 is disappointingly pop-oriented, but there are fine versions of "Tenor Madness" (with a European group in 1975), "Killer Joe" (a duet with bassist Marc Johnson), "The Peacocks," and the straight-ahead "C to G Jam Blues." The interesting CD concludes with "For My Lady," which finds Thielemans accompanied by Shirley Horn and her trio in 1991. Although it would be preferable to have the original sessions reissued in complete form, overall this is a worthwhile sampler of the great Toots Thielemans.

Biography

Born: April 29, 1922 in Brussels, Belgium

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

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...
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Verve Jazz Masters 59: Toots Thielemans, Toots Thielemans
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