HARMONICA LEGEND TOOTS THIELMANS JOINS JAZZ GROUPS FOR CONCERT

March 28, 2000

More Information:
Eastman Office of Communications, 585-274-1050

ROCHESTER, NY – Internationally known jazz artist Toots Thielemans — described by Quincy Jones as "one of the greatest musicians of our time" — comes to the Eastman School of Music for a concert April 22.

Thielemans will perform with the Eastman Jazz Ensemble under the direction of Fred Sturm and the New Jazz Ensemble conducted by Jim Doser. The concert takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 22, in the Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St. Tickets, $6 (free to University of Rochester ID-holders), are available at Ticket Express, 100 East Ave. (222-5000).

Born in Belgium, Thielemans began playing accordion at age 3 and took up the harmonica as a teenager after seeing American virtuoso Larry Adler in a movie. His interest in jazz developed during World War II. By 1944, he was playing guitar in American GI hangouts in liberated Brussels, often alternating with Edith Piaf and Stephane Grappelli. Among his early influences were Django Reinhardt and Charlie Parker, and his now-famous nickname came from Toots Mondello, a saxophonist with Benny Goodman.

In 1950, Goodman recruited Thielemans for a European tour, a job that provided excellent exposure for his unique jazz-harmonica interpretations. Thielemans soon immigrated to the United States and became a member of Charlie Parker’s All-Stars (in Philadelphia) and the George Shearing Quintet.

Over the past half century, Thielmans has performed and recorded with such luminaries as Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, Bill Evans, Jaco Pastorius, Natalie Cole, Pat Metheny, Paul Simon, and Billy Joel. His harmonica has been featured on soundtracks for numerous films (including Midnight Cowboy) and on the television program Sesame Street. He’s also been the whistler on many TV commercials (including Old Spice).

His best-known recordings include Man Bites Harmonica (1958), Affinity (with the Bill Evans Trio, 1979), Only Trust Your Heart (1989), Toots 75 (1997) and Chez Toots (1998).

The Eastman concert will feature music arranged or composed by Eastman alumna Maria Schneider, including her arrangement of Thieleman’s best-known composition, Bluesette. Blues for Toots, a new work by current Eastman student Keith McAliley, will open the concert. Pieces by Gershwin, Henry Mancini, Alex North, and John Coltrane round out the program.

Thielemans’ appearance has been made possible by a generous donation from Ray Schirmer, a retired Eastman School of Music employee and devoted fan of the Eastman Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media Department.

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