Brussels Jazz Orchestra & Metropole Orkest – Hommage to Toots Thielemans (2022)

FrontCover1Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans (29 April 1922 – 22 August 2016), known professionally as Toots Thielemans, was a Belgian jazz musician. He was mostly known for his chromatic harmonica playing, as well as his guitar and whistling skills, and composing. According to jazz historian Ted Gioia, his most important contribution was in “championing the humble harmonica”, which Thielemans made into a “legitimate voice in jazz”. He eventually became the “preeminent” jazz harmonica player.

His first professional performances were with Benny Goodman’s band when they toured Europe in 1949 and 1950. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1951, becoming a citizen in 1957. From 1953 to 1959 he played with George Shearing, and then led his own groups on tours in the U.S. and Europe. In 1961 he recorded and performed live one of his own compositions, “Bluesette”, which featured him playing guitar and whistling. In the 1970s and 1980s, he continued touring and recording, appearing with musicians such as Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Werner, Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorius, Mina Mazzini, Elis Regina, Quincy Jones, George Shearing, Natalie Cole, Billy Joel, Paul Simon and Paquito D’Rivera.

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Thielemans recorded the soundtracks for The Pawnbroker (1964), Midnight Cowboy (1969), The Getaway (1972), Cinderella Liberty (1973), The Sugarland Express (1974) and Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977). His harmonica theme song for the popular Sesame Street TV show was heard for 40 years. He often performed and recorded with Quincy Jones, who once called him “one of the greatest musicians of our time.” In 2009 he was designated a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor for a jazz musician in the United States.

Thielemans died in Braine-l’Alleud, Belgium, at the age of 94.

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After the announcement, the Netherlands-based jazz and pop orchestra Metropole Orkest, along with American musician Quincy Jones, performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall in Thielemans’ honor. Another concert was performed at the Grand Place, Brussels.

Thielemans was buried on 27 August 2016 in La Hulpe, just outside Brussels. Pianist Kenny Werner read a personal message from U.S. President Barack Obama for his widow, Huguette. It read: “Dear Huguette. I was deeply saddened when I heard about your husband’s passing. I hope that shared memories will soften your suffering. Lift faith from the support of friends and family. Know that you will be in my thoughts for the next days. May Toots’ music lead you and offer you consolation. I’m sure it will do this for all of us.”(wikipedia)

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29 April marked the 100th birthday of Toots Thielemans. To mark the occasion, a major concert was given in memory of this eminent Brussels jazzman, who died in 2016. Kenny Werner, Vince Mendoza, Philip Catherine, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, the Metropole Orkest and other distinguished guests paid tribute to him. Relive this moment ‘between a smile and a tear’ and discover the interview with Dee Dee Bridgewater, Tutu Puoane and Frank Vaganée.


The life of Toots Thielemans, from his debut in the cafés of Marolles to the jazz clubs of New York, is the tale of a dizzying rise to stardom. Renowned for his unparalleled whistling, his talent on the guitar and the harmonica, the Brussels-born artist has rubbed shoulders with some of the world’s greats, including Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Sidney Bechet and Elis Regina.

Kenny Werner

To celebrate his 100th birthday, and to honour his memory and legacy, a stage performance by a select few outstanding musicians who knew him well, will focus on the milestones of Toots’ career, from his debuts to his famous American performances, via his Brazilian period. The unique voices of Tutu Puoane, and Brazilian artists Claudio and Ivan Lins, the American duo of Grégoire Maret (harmonica) and Kenny Werner (pianist and composer who will dedicate a new suite to Toots), and our very own Belgian star Philip Catherine, will join Frank Vaganée and Vince Mendoza, directors of the Brussels Jazz Orchestra and the Metropole Orkest respectively, to pay tribute to this legendary ket (street slang for “kid”). (

What a wonderul night, what a wonderull idea to celebrate the one and only Toots Thielemans !

Live at the Bozar, Brussels, Belgium; April 29, 2022. Very good radio broadcast

Tutu Puoane

Brussels Jazz Orchestra (on 04. – 10.)
Metropole Orkest condiced by Vince Mendoza (on 11. –
Philip Catherine (guitar on 06. – 08.)
Ivan Lins (vocals on 18. + 19.)
Jos Machtel (bass on 06.)
Grégoire Maret (harmonica)
Tutu Puoane (vocals on 05., 15., 19 + 20.)
Toni Vitacolonna (drums on 06.)
Kenny Werner (piano on 06., 12. – 20.)OrchestraTracklist:
01. Interview with Tutu Puoane 3.10
02. Interviews with Kenny Werner and Philip Catherine 12.40
03. Introduction 0.24
04. Stardust (Carmichael/Parish) 5.56
05. The Man I Love (Gershwin) 7.39
06.Autumn Leaves (Prévert/Kosma) 9.05
07. Dance For Victor (Catherine, arr. Bert Joris) 10.21
08. Three Views Of A Secret (Pastorius) 11.04
09. One Note Samba (de Mendonca/Jobim) 13:12
10. Song For My Lady (Thielemans) 5.10
11. St Louis Blues (WC Handy) 6.35
12. Days Of Wine And Roses (Mancini/Mercer) 6.55
13. The Dolphin (Eça) 13.20
14. Rosa Turbinata (van Otterloo) 4.14
15. Smile (Chaplin) 6.12
16. Old Friend (Thielemans) / Ne Me Quitte Pas (Brell) 7.55
17. Choro Bandido (Lobo/Buarque) 7.19
18. Começar de Novo (Ivan Lins) 7:56
19. Bluesette (Thielemans) 7.01
20. What A Wonderful World (Thiele/Weiss) 5.37

Metropole Orkest


Brussels Jazz Orchestra

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