© 2017–19 by Just East of Jazz

The musical panoply of harmonica legend Toots Thielemans

When accordionist Toots Thielemans turned his attention to the chromatic harmonica, in occupied Belgium in the 1940s, he picked a chameleon of an instrument which was to lead to a musical career without boundaries. Was it something about this unique and rarely-heard instrument which took him into the worlds of bebop bands, electric funk, brazilian jazz and film & TV scores? Or was it the highly-personal voice of this soft-spoken North European gentleman which endeared him to the vanguard of American musicians and composers, from Charlie Parker to Quincy Jones, Benny Goodman to Jaco Pastorius?

 

In a concert programme endorsed by Thielemans himself shortly before his death in 2016, harmonica maestro Phil Hopkins joins some of the UK’s most inventive jazz musicians to explore the eclectic repertoire of Toots. Taking the audience on what amounts to a journey through popular music of the last 50 years, the setlist ranges from well-known themes to Sesame Street and Midnight Cowboy, Thielemans’ own composition Bluesette (which quickly became a jazz standard), and the results of famous collaborations with Benny Goodman,  Paul Simon, Bill Evans and many others.

The broad range of material acts as a springboard for this talented band’s extraordinary gift for improvisation, and all the musicians will be contributing specially-written compositions inspired by the work of Toots.

Tipping his hat to Thielemans’ extensive musical liaisons, Hopkins has also arranged his own favourite tunes by Norah Jones, Carole King, Stevie Wonder and others to round out this fascinating programme.

 

Featuring strong melodies, familiar themes and Phil’s own commentary threading the set together, this programme will appeal to audiences of all ages and interests.

Photo: Jon Frost

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