Toots Thielemans: Waltz for Debby


Waltz for Debby


'Toots' Thielemans (harmonica)


East Coast West Coast (Private Music 01005-82120-2)

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'Toots' Thielemans (harmonica), Alan Broadbent (piano), Robben Ford (guitar), Jerry Goodman (violin), Charlie Haden (bass), Peter Erskine (drums).

Composed by Bill Evans


Recorded: Los Angeles, released 1994


Rating: 90/100 (learn more)

The harmonica may not be the first instrument that comes to mind when someone thinks of jazz. But "Toots" Thielemans's career proves that in the right hands, the harmonica can be just as evocative as any other instrument. Over his long musical run, he's been acknowledged as the finest of all jazz harmonica players. His composition "Bluesette" is one of the all-time great jazz performances. When it came out in 1962, it was a worldwide hit. Who could not fall for its catchy melody and Toots's playful harmonica and whistling skills? His harp has also been famously heard on the soundtrack of Midnight Cowboy and in many Sesame Street episodes. Yet despite his high-profile credits, Thielemans is an icon more among jazz players than jazz fans. So it was not a big surprise to see all of the great contemporary jazz stars that joined him for East Coast West Coast. Among them, in addition to the above-listed, were Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, John Scofield, Lyle Mays, Joshua Redman and others.

This is a tender, heartfelt and ultimately hopeful rendition of Bill Evans's classic. Broadbent's piano intro hints at a sad story to come. But Haden's bouncing bassline and Thielemans's resonant and upbeat harmonica quickly tell another. Erskine skillfully works the brushes to count off this waltz. Violinist Goodman joins in and plays the part of Stéphane Grappelli. (For more of this type of playing from Goodman, please check out the movie soundtrack to Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.) Thielemans's turn comes around again. He and Goodman trade tasty licks. Broadbent's piano returns to play the coda. Get me another glass of Chardonnay, please.

Reviewer: Walter Kolosky

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