Harmonica Titan Toots Thielemans dies at 94

Written by | Artists, News, obituary

Jean “Toots”Thielemans, considered by many to be a national treasure of Belgium passed away on August 22, 2016. After 70+ years of touring, Toots retired to his art-filled home in the Belgian village of La Hulpe, about a half-hour drive from Brussels.

Thielemans was pre-eminently a jazz musician — and he recorded with many of the music’s most illustrious figures, from Oscar Peterson to Benny Goodman, Pat Metheny to Quincy Jones, Shirley Horn to Dizzy Gillespie.

His harmonica is also instantly recognizable in the theme song to “Sesame Street” and “Midnight Cowboy” and innumerable other film scores. Toots whistled the Old Spice deodorant commercial in the 1970s and ’80s, and he wrote the jazz standard “Bluesette.”

Thielemans, was also an accomplished guitarist, he holds a singular place in the jazz pantheon: He dominated the chromatic harmonica with its spring-loaded button. Unlike the diatonic harmonica, the chromatic also has a small slide that shifts a note by half a step, allowing a three-octave chromatic scale, which includes sharps and flats, to be played.

It is simple to play. However, intensely difficult to master.

“Toots” Thielemans was a master tone titan, pulling a certain sweet sadness out of a thin brass read.

For a full interesting biography of “Toots” go to www.tootsthielemans.com

Photos: Jos Knaepen

YT Video: Kanaal van muzieklampie

Last modified: July 15, 2018