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Toots Thielemans

Toots Thielemans is an NEA Jazz Master

Jean 'Toots' Thielemans is widely regarded by most people as the most accomplished harmonica player in the world. Of course, that's not all he does and it would be a great injustice to label him as just a good harmonica player. If you are not into Jazz, you may not have heard of his name but you have probably heard his music many times and I suspect you liked it. He is equally good at playing guitar, the accordeon and many other instruments. For instance, you will never hear anyone whistle jazz better than Toots.

Born on 29 April 1922 in Brussels, he quickly got interested in music and was playing the accordeon at age 3. Later he started playing the harmonica and the guitar. He got seriously hooked on jazz in earnest during the German occupation and has been influenced predominantly by Django Reinhardt, another Belgian who invented a particular way of playing the guitar, and the legendary Charlie Parker. Other influences were Toots Mondello and Toots Camarata, resulting in Jean Thielemans being nicknamed 'Toots' early on in his career.

In an interview in 1983 with a Belgian radio station, he said : “My parents had a pub and each Sunday there was an accordionist. They have told me that when I was in my cradle, I already was imitating the gestures of the musician. One of the clients said “that kid wants to play accordion”. My father bought me a little cardboard accordion, and when I was three I got this little machine. (plays a little bit, accompanied by the barking of his little dog called Duke Yorkshire Ellington Thielemans)”.

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Albums

90 Years

Challenge Records
2013

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What A Wonderful World

Challenge Jazz
2012

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The Live Takes, Vol. 1

In + Out Records
2010

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European Quartet Live

Challenge Records
2010

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Hit Collection

Challenge Jazz
2008

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One More For The Road

Verve Music Group
2006

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