CD+DVD Reviews

Toots Thielemans – 90 Yrs. – Toots Thielemans and his European Quartet – Challenge (CD+DVD) Toots Thielemans – The Live Takes Vol. 1 – In+Out Records

Two CDs plus a DVD of the unique jazz harmonica of Toots Thielemans in live performances.

Published on September 21, 2012

Toots Thielemans – 90 Yrs. – Toots Thielemans and his European Quartet – Challenge (CD+DVD) Toots Thielemans – The Live Takes Vol. 1 – In+Out Records

Toots Thielemans – 90 Yrs. – Toots Thielemans and his European Quartet – Challenge CD+DVD CHR70167 [Distr. by Allegro] DVD: 16:9 color, PCM mono ****:
Toots Thielemans – The Live Takes Vol. 1 – In+Out Records IOR CD 77041-2 ****:

(1 – Toots Thielemans, harmonica; Karl Boehlee, piano & synth; Hein Van de Geyn, doublebass; Hans van Oosterhout, drums
2 – Toots Thielemans, harmonica; Nathalie Loriers/Kenny Werner/Michel Herr, piano; Sal La Rocca/Ray Drummond/Jay Anderson, doublebass; Michel Hatzigeorgiou, elec. bass; Bruno Castellucci/Adam Nussbaum/Jukkis Uotila, drums)

Toots—one of the 20th century’s greatest harmonica players—has also been voted one of the top Belgians, and was even named a Baron by their king some time ago.  He began in the jazz world as an accordionist, then a guitarist and sometimes does both guitar and whistling on one album. Toots got into whistling on his own famous tune “Bluesette.” He also has whistled on Old Spice commercials for years and his harmonica playing is heard in numerous film scores, including Midnight Cowboy. He has arranged for projects with Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones.  He’s appreciated by his fellow musicians for his modesty and good demeanor.

Both albums here are live tracks recorded around the world. For the 90 Yrs. album they were made in 2006, 2007, 2008 & 2011. The CD+DVD album is beautifully packaged in a hard-bound book form, with many color photos of Toots. The CD is nested against the front cover of the book and the DVD against the back. The only duplication between the two formats is the tune popularized by Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World.” It concludes the video, which was filmed at an appearance in Japan. Toots shyly explains before the second number that it’s a theme he wrote for a porno film. It’s great to see Toots in action on the 16:9 screen, and the sound is OK, but I was shocked to find that it was only mono, since the video was shot last year. Also, the navigation is set so that after you play one of the six tunes on the DVD it just stops and doesn’t continue with the next one.

TrackList:

CD = Waltz for Sonny, The Dragon, Sno’ Peas, Wave, Dat Mistige Rooie Beest, In Your Own Sweet Way, What a Wonderful World, One Note Samba, The Dolphin, I Do It for Your Love, Old Friend
DVD = Autumn Leaves, Turks Fruit, Midnight Cowboy, Saint Thomas, Bluesette, What a Wonderful World


Most of the cuts on The Live Takes CD come from DAT tapes and Minidiscs recorded by Toots’ sound engineer at his concerts in Belgium and the U.S.. They were originally recorded just for monitoring purposes, but they sound OK and it’s a treat to hear Toots at his best. Such live performances often seem to have more soul, and the freedom from studio pressures results in some great playing. The sound from the various sub-professional sources is not bad at all. He does not only standards from the Great American Songbook, but also a ten-minute sample from the all-Brazilian concerts he’s done: an Ivan Lins tune titled “Comecar de Novo.” The CD opens with Toots’ sensitive medley of two Porgy and Bess numbers: “I Loves You Porgy” and “Summertime.” He does a lovely version of the classic “Stardust,” with a gorgeous harmonica sound that other players of the minute instrument don’t seem to achieve. The closing track of the CD is 11½ minutes long, and we discover that the mysterious “Dat Mistige Rooie Beest” (in Flemish or Dutch) on the above CD is “That Misty Red Beast” in English! It starts out smooth and mysterious and ends up with great pep and zeal.

TrackList:

1. I loves you Porgy/Summertime (George Gershwin)
2. Começar de novo (Ivan Lins)
3. Hard to say goodbye (Jean “Toots” Thielemans)
4. Stardust (Hoagy Carmichael)
5. Body and soul (Green / Heyman)
6. I do it for your love (Paul Simon)
7. Three views of a secret (Jaco Pastorius)
8. All the way (J. Van Heusen / S. Cahn)
9. The misty red beast (Rogier Van Otterloo)

—John Sunier

 

 




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