The unmistakable chromatic harmonica of Toots Thielemans is on hundreds of soundtracks, including the Sesame Street theme. But for decades Thielemans performed as an electric guitarist, often whistling in unison with his own solos. His hauntingly beautiful improvisations are typified by “Bluesette,” a song that became a worldwide hit in 1962 and a certified jazz standard since. The NEA Jazz Master has collaborated with a range of jazz legends from Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones and Jaco Pastorius to pop icons like Paul Simon and Billy Joel. In recent years he has laid down the guitar, fully focused on taking the harmonica to a place it can only go in his hands. Now on the verge of his 90th birthday, emotional openness, sensitivity, and an impish sense of humor continue to shape every note he plays. “That’s what you call maturity, when all of your experiences, all your joys and pains blend together in the way you blow an instrument,” says Thielemans. No musician has been more closely associated with him over the past decade than Kenny Werner, one of the elite pianists in jazz since the 1970s.
If ever there was a post-Bill Evans pianist’s jazz pianist, it would be Kenny Werner. He is one of the most lyrical interpreters and composers in the jazz world, and is known for his ability to integrate spiritual aspects with strong performances.
Werner’s talent was recognized early on, becoming a student at the Manhattan School of Music while still in high school. After graduating from the Berklee School of Music, Werner made an auspicious appearance on the Charles Mingus album “Something Like A Bird.” He also spent time touring with Archie Shepp and with the Mel Lewis Orchestra. The past 25 years have found him touring and recording with the likes of Joe Lovano and Tom Harrell, and most notably in duo situations with Toots Thielemans and Betty Buckley.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
”I can say without hesitation that Toots is one of the greatest musicians of our time. On his instrument he ranks with the best that jazz has ever produced. He goes for the heart and makes you cry.” -Quincy Jones
“an ever-evolving definition of the spontaneity that remains at the heart of jazz” -Bob Blumenthal, Boston Globe