In 2001, a duet CD hit the European shelves. Each CD was sold with a small pack of tissues. Its title, "Hard to Say Goodbye, the Very Best of Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner." Verve Music Group, North Sea Jazz.
With the concurrent release in the United States on March 5, 2002, Americans will now understand what the European community has known for a very long time; the album is one of the most emotionally breathtaking CDs ever recorded, and the pairing of the beloved Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner is magic beyond what this writer can express on paper.
Reaching for my third tissue, one that was not provided in the American distribution, I’m halfway through the CD. Each track is hauntingly beautiful with the renowned tenderness and love Toots expresses with his harmonica, and Kenny’s sensitive piano artistry.
Toots, who turns 80 in 2002, is as much in demand as ever. He is well loved in his native country, Belgium. In fact, the King of Belgium bestowed the well-deserved title of Baron on Toots last year. But Toots’ notoriety is not limited to the European community, although they embrace this dear man as though he were their favorite uncle. He is well respected throughout the musical industry and his list of credits with guitar, harmonica and lyrical whistling is most impressive from writing and performing the Sesame Street theme, the musical score for the film Midnight Cowboy, to performances with Coltrane, Gillespie, Miles and Bill Evans, and albums and appearances too vast to mention.
Kenny Werner a gifted musician, arranger/director and educator has a long list of credits and associations over the past quarter of a century, including his unparalleled, "Maybeck Recital Hall Series" album and several National Endowment for the Arts grants resulting in brilliant musical works and performances. Werner also charts arrangements for big band orchestra and performs quite a bit in Europe, but it is his spiritual need to express himself through his music that makes him one of the most successful pianists around today. As he penned in one of his own articles, " I play to love and nurture myself, to discover my higher self. I've also become more and more aware of the true purpose of the music and the people who play it: to heal and unify. Music is one of the most tangible manifestations of spirit today."
This highly recommended, intimate CD salutes the works of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, Bach, Walt Disney, Sinatra, Michel Legrand, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, but in a way never before presented, from the enchanting spirit and heart of two of today’s most gifted and sensitive musicians.
For more information on Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner, and their upcoming US tour schedule, go to their individual websites listed below. You may also search JazzReview.com for archived biographies and performance reviews. http://tootsthielemans.com http://kennywerner.com