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Halloween at the Blue Note

Halloween night marked the fourth evening of special performances by Toots Thielemans at New York’s Blue Note. Belgian-born Toots was in town for his 80th Birthday Celebration and on the stage with him was longtime collaborator Kenny Werner on piano and special guest Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone.

This was a very special night of music initiated by a duet performance of Herbie Hancock’s Dolphin Dance. Kenny and Toots displayed their remarkable ability to interpret jazz standards with the unusual instrumentation of chromatic harmonica and piano. The extraordinary tonal range exhibited by Thielemans on the chromatic harmonica was incredible. Prior to the show I had heard Toots on several albums, but to see and hear him playing the melodies of complex jazz compositions on the harmonica was simply amazing.

For the third piece, Joe Lovano joined the duo and the beautiful music continued. Lovano’s tenor saxophone playing expanded the tonal quality of the music. Joe and Toots exhibited their ability to fluently speak the universal language of improvised music as they traded 4’s during the first tune, often letting out shouts of encouragement and joy as their solos increased in intensity.

For the rest of the evening, the trio soared through standards such as Body and Soul, Blue and Green, and Solar. At one point, Toots made it clear that even he was surprised at the level of communication that the band was achieving, since the trio had not even rehearsed together. Not only were all three musicians solidly together on all of the changes, they also transitioned easily between increasingly complex and beautiful improvised solos.

The band closed with a wonderful version of Invitation as the audience cheered and wished Toots Thielemans a happy birthday. This was an evening of unique and beautiful music, played by three of the great musicians of our time. One thing is certain: those of us who have seen and heard Toots play live will never hear the harmonica in the same way again.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Toots Thielemans
  • Concert Date: 10/31/2002
  • Subtitle: Toots and Lovano Provide Tricks and Treats
  • Venue: Blue Note
  • City State Country: New York, New York, USA
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