At age three plays accordeon in his parents' sidewalk café...
He is not pushed towards music and plans to study mathematics at Brussels University.
Buys a harmonica as a hobby and discovers jazz during German occupation. First guitar won on a bet, learns from Django REINHARDT's records, his first idol.
Early influence : Charlie Parker.
After the liberation in 1945, becomes rapidly one of the new hopes of Belgian jazz along with Bobby JASPAR, René THOMAS,...
Nicknamed "Toots" after musicians Toots Mondello and Toots Camarata
First international break : Joining Benny Goodman on European concert tour in 1950.
| In 1952 moves to the States, where all his idols are still very active. Slowly and surely he acquires a solid reputation and gives a responsible jazz voice to the harmonica.|
Early US jobs : member of Charlie Parker's All-Stars in Philadelphia; George Shearing Quintet; ...
Playing and recording with names like George SHEARING, Ella FITZGERALD, Quincy JONES, Bill EVANS, Jaco PASTORIUS, etc..., even with pop stars Paul SIMON, Billy JOEL.
His harmonica is heard in many movie scores : Midnight Cowboy, Jean de Florette, etc.
He created a new sound combining whistling and guitar in unison and used it on his composition "Bluesette" (written in 1963) which became his identification number as well as a jazz standard...
A variety of other credits includes a harmonica solo on the Sesame Street theme and countless commercials (Old Spice), etc.
Favorite compliment (from the late Clifford Brown) : "Toots, the way you play the harmonica they should not call it a miscellaneous instrument"
" I can say without hesitation that Toots is one of the greatest musicians of our time. On his instrument he ranks with the best that jazz has ever produced. he goes for the heart and makes you cry. We have worked together more times than I can count and he always keeps me coming back for more ..."
from Quincy Jones' liner notes Q's Jook Joint, 1995
"I feel best in that little space between a smile and a tear".
Let him take you there...
Toots keeps roaming around the world playing with musicians from everywhere such as Nathalie Loriers, Michel Herr, Charles Loos, Kenny Werner, David Kikoski, Bill Carrothers, Mike del Ferro, Bert Van den Brink, Karel Boehlee, …on piano
Bart De Nolf, Philippe Aerts, Sal La Rocca, Michel Hatzigeorgiou, Ray Drummond, Scott Colley, Jay Anderson, Dave Carpenter, Hein Van de Geyn, Eric Surmenian …. on bass
Bruno Castellucci, Dré Pallemaerts, Jan de Haas, Adam Nussbaum, Billy Hart, Joe Labarbara, Billy Drummond, Hans Van Oosterhout … on druns
More about Toots THIELEMANS on the following web sites :
Jazz profiles : Toots Thielemans
Jazz to Jazz site : Toots, artist of the month in Dec. '97.
Toots in Japan / The Blue Note
Discogs Discographie de Toots Thielemans.
All Music Guide : an extended discography
Another detailed discography (Japan)
A discography on Pierre Dulieu's site.
Northsea Jazz Festival site (NL/ENG)
Toots Jazz Festival
He died in 2016, at the age of 94, only 2 years after he decided to retire.
He rests at the Cimetery of La Hulpe (B), the town where he spent his last years and of fromvwhich he received an honorary citizenship.