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Toots Thielemans

Biography

Jean Baptiste "Toots" Thielemans made the harmonica a respected jazz instrument. Since he gained popularity in the 1950s, he has somehow managed to cull saxophone-like sophistication from his harp and has no real competitors. In fact, he doesn't even need an instrument; Thielmans often solos by whistling! He came to prominence in France by playing guitar in the style of Django Reinhardt but fell into American swing and Bop music, which deeply influenced his style. He came to America after playing with Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman in Europe. George Shearing, a fellow European, featured Thielemans in his extremely popular quintet. Quincy Jones used him on harmonica and guitar with his various big band and studio projects and from there Thielemans went off on his own, though he continues to share the spotlight, recording with such distinct artists as Bill Evans and John Zorn. Thielemans has had much success in the '90s recording with the stars of Brazilian Bossa Nova. Toots is one of a kind.
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