Sunday, August 17, 2008
Toots! Jazz on Harmonica
I first heard Toots Thielemans when I was a wet behind the ears jazz fan. A college professor, Meade Harwell, turned me on to Bill Evans. I am not sure I understood any of the music, but it intrigued me, and led me down the path. One of the first albums I purchased was Affinity, largely a duet with Evans of course on piano, and Thielemans playing harmonica. The producers, apparently didn't trust in the duet idea, and insisted on a background band: Marc Johnson plays bass, and Eliot Zigmund is on drums. But Evans and Thielemans are in the forefront all the way. It is still one of my favorite disks. I can recall at will Thieleman's haunting, hollowed out melody on"Days of Wine and Roses," and "Jesus' Last Ballad." It's a gorgeous piece of jazz.
I just picked up another Thielemans harmonica disc (he also played guitar), Only Trust Your Heart. Fred Hersch plays piano, Marc Johnson and Harvie Swartz on bass, and Joey Baron on drums. It's delightful. Here is a cut from the disc. It's a Wayne Shorter composition, and Thielemans gets the steadily falling feeling perfectly.