October 27, 2011

Toots Thielemans And Kenny Werner On JazzSet (Becca Pulliam, 10/27/11, NPR: Jazz Set)

Born Jean-Baptiste Thielemans in Brussels in 1922, "Toots" was always a natural musician, playing accordion at age 3. When he was a boy, the Nazis occupied Belgium and his family fled to France, where he fell even further in love with music -- especially the hot jazz of Paris. After the war, Thielemans became fascinated with bebop and figured out the hip new phrases on his harmonica. (Toots, by the way, was originally a professional guitarist, and it is said that after hearing him with George Shearing in Hamburg in 1960, John Lennon went out and bought his Rickenbacker 325.)

Thielemans moved to the U.S. in the early 1950s, at which point he worked with Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker and Shearing. Toots loves to tell the story of how he made a Chrysler Plymouth commercial with Louis Armstrong, Armstrong singing and Toots playing harmonica. Pops called Toots "bop chops." Thielemans played music in the films Breakfast at Tiffany's and Midnight Cowboy, as well as the theme to Sesame Street; then, Toots fell in love again with the music of Brazil.

Thielemans became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1957. But it is Kenny Werner who thought of interpolating "Travessia (Bridges)" by the Brazilian Milton Nascimento into "God Bless America," the climactic song of the concert.

AUDIO
Posted by Orrin Judd at October 27, 2011 3:59 PM
  
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