Once upon a time when I was a teenager that moved away from home. I didn’t have a car, a gig, or much money. I was addicted to LPs but I needed to eat . Having a couple of bucks for dinner one night I stopped in a record store to see what they had. There was this white LP with a drawing of Toots Thielemans on the cover & I really wanted it but I was very hungry. I made my decision and have been a fan of my Toots Thielemans diet plan ever since. This interview took place over the telephone ( my first phone interview) the day after I saw the band play at the Dakota jazz club. The band was a trio Toots, Kenny Werner (piano, synthesizer), and Oscar Castro-Neves (guitar)
Steve- Hi Toots this is Steve Hegman.
Toots Thielemans – Yes, we briefly met last night right?
S- That’s right.
Toots Thielemans – OK
S- By the way you sounded fantastic.
Toots Thielemans – Thank you.
S- And congratulations on your Downbeat award.
Toots Thielemans – Oh yes… I’m getting used to it (laughs)..
My wall at the house at home in Belgium is too small (laughs)
Toots Thielemans – No I’m joking, of course I appreciate it. But for many years, are you recording this?
S- Yes I am.
Toots Thielemans – OK. For many years I have been sort of alone on the jazz barricade with my harmonica you know, but now there’s a few more.
There’s one young fellow that I have a lot of respect for. He’s the son of a Swiss doctor who I think married an African American
lady and he lives in the states now, and he plays with the likes of Cassandra Wilson with Pat Metheny.
S- Oh boy! Hey what was his name?
Toots Thielemans – I’ll spell it for you. Gregoire, you know that’s French, Gregoire Maret. He’s a young fella and he came a few times
to listen to me at the Blue Note last week. I have a wonderful relationship with him and he will really make a
lot of noise.
S- That’s great we’re looking forward to hearing him and I’m sure our readers will want to look at that.
Toots Thielemans – Yes. Of course my first idol was, and still you know very important…I still have a lot of respect for Larry Adler
S- I was in Amsterdam recently and heard Richard Galliano. You recorded with him,yes?
Toots Thielemans – Ahh, I played on one or two songs of one of his albums right?
Toots Thielemans – But we finally played together a couple of weeks ago in Berlin, Germany, at the jazz festival.
Toots Thielemans – He has a wonderful I would say trio, with a fine bass player from America Scott Cauley.
And he has a fine little drummer Clarance Penn, and or was it Pendlin… oh boy I’m not sure now. (laughs) Penn I think.
S- That’s ok. That sounds like a great session.
Toots Thielemans – And that was the idea of the promoters of, the producer of the festival in Berlin to get us together. It was very
S- Oh I bet it was.
Toots Thielemans – And he doesn’t speak a word of English either (laughs).
Ahh you know. But I enjoyed it we, I sent him some lead sheets you know, some of the stuff I played.
S- Do you read music?
Toots Thielemans – I beg your pardon?
S- Do you read music Toots?
Toots Thielemans – Well not as fast as the guys that go to the conservatory but I know every note that I play, and I know to what chord it belongs.
And if I have something, for instance for a movie score, if you know.. its the feeling I project that the producers are after.
And if they know… the harmonica is so easy you can hold a phone with one hand and play the harmonica with the other hand so we
rehearse on the phone sometimes with people like John Williams I’ve done that, and (??name) and if its really intricate to read
then they can send me the music a couple of days before.
S- Have you found through the years that the quality of harmonicas has gotten better?
Toots Thielemans – The instrument itself?
Toots Thielemans – Ahhh… I shouldn’t be quoted on that because they make one with my name on two models you know. The metal tone
and the hard popper, do you know about that?
S- No, I’m a melodica player…
Toots Thielemans – The Hohner factory.
S- That’s right. I’m a melodica player so I’m not as familiar with the harmonicas.
Toots Thielemans – Oh melodica, I don’t know much about that.
S- You know you’ve played with so many great people could you just recount some of your experiences. You used to play
with George Shearing.
Toots Thielemans – Ya that was my first and only steady job (laughs).
S- And you were playing guitar with George?
Toots Thielemans – Yes mostly in those days, and now I still love the guitar but I had a stroke you know which really put the damper on my velocity.
S- Well I wouldn’t have asked…
Toots Thielemans – But I, Kenny Warner always said “oh you should play you say more with two notes than those fast guys with 10,000” (laughs).
S- That’s true.
Toots Thielemans – And you know its more… ah less is more you know. But still I wish, if you look up this discography with Shearing.
I played a couple of nice solos.
S- Oh yeah absolutely.
Toots Thielemans – On guitar you know.
S- When you were playing with Charlie Parker were you playing guitar at that time?
Toots Thielemans – Both.
S- Both guitar and harmonica?
Toots Thielemans – That was the only… yes. Mostly a combination of both. I had met him in 1949 in Paris at the jazz festival. 1949 all Star
boppers, It was the first time all the be-boppers came to Paris… to France outside of America. Miles Davis, Charlie Parker,
Kenny Dorham, Kenny Clark you know. And he, by then if you look at my, I mean its not all that clearly explained on my web site.
Toots Thielemans – But, I have been in the States as visitor you know I came in 1947 imagine that. Were you born then? (laughs)
S- No that was before my time.
Toots Thielemans – And um the last evening I was here a photographer, a very famous photographer, Bill Gottlieb of the jazz..he loved jazz music and he has historic photographs of Ella Fitzgerald, Dexter Gordon and all those and he had heard me in Miami at a jam session
“Hey you good man” I’m talking about 47 you know, 1947 and I was supposed to go back to the south of France to play with
the Belgium band, Belgium Air Presentation, at a jazz festival in Nice. And ahh he said “hey I’ll take you to the streets”
said Bill Gottlieb. That was the beginning of the end of 52nd street.
Toots Thielemans – You know I’m talking, ya now they call it the jazz street in New York you know (laughs). And he took me to jazz session to sit in with the JJ Johnson All Stars.
S- The trombone player sure.
Toots Thielemans – Yes but all my idols I knew the guys you know Hank Jones, Percy , Milt Jackson that was the All Star Band. And you know they let me play a little and they all fell on their face, they had never heard this guy from Belgium, nobody knew about Belgium,
this guy plays the harmonica. ((laughing)
Toots Thielemans – And then in the audience was Billy Shaw. He was the booker, the salesman of the be-boppers you know?
“Hey kid you’re good where you from?” I’m from Bel I’m from Brussels. “I know that’s in Copenhagen”. You know typical
Hollywood style with the cigar and everything. “Send me some records.” So on the boat, I took the boat back to the
south of France, and on the boat I wrote some chords on the song Stardust you know. The standard by Hoagie Carmichael.
Toots Thielemans – And I recorded that, to make this story a little shorter, I recorded that in a garage in Belgium with a string quartet and that
wound up on the turntable of Benny Goodman in 19… I would say 48.
Toots Thielemans – And then Benny Goodman was so impressed, he tried to, he had a little fling with be-bop. Benny Goodman, you know the king of swing of course.
Toots Thielemans – And he had a band that he had asked me, he tried to get me to join this project. Imagine that if that’s going to happen at the
Paramount Theater in New York as a soloist with the Benny Goodman be-bop band… imagine that.
Toots Thielemans – But I couldn’t, he could not get the visa, the proper working permits. They were very strict in those days, and the union.
You know, I don’t know, I couldn’t get… but then I started to apply for my immigration you know and it took two years to get.
There was a quota system, each country had so many citizens allowed to come to the states you know what I mean?
S- I didn’t know that.
Toots Thielemans – In those days, it may be a little easier now the visa situation. But to work permanently in this country it’s still
very difficult for a non, for an alien put it that way. So I finally got the papers and I came to New York with a few
dollars in my pocket you know, ready to scuffle (laughs)..
T- And then there’s a legend, this is very much, have you heard the name Tony Scott?
S- I’m sorry the name?
T- He’s a clarinet player, a very, he’s still alive, he’s a colorful person. And he was…
S- Tony Scott?
S- Scott OK.
Toots Thielemans – Tony Scott and he was like, how can I say, whenever a musician, a talented musician, came to New York and he needed help. Tony would always hear about him and help, tried to find hem a place to stay. I had a place to stay but not so flashy you know
twenty dollars a week or something (laughs).
S- Yeah, I’ve stayed there before.
Toots Thielemans- (laughs) My wife we came. I mean again to shorten the story I went, in those days there was a club Birdland right.
Toots Thielemans- And every Monday there was jam session night for you know they had a week, like imagine here they had an attraction for a whole week
like Count Basie Band, Charlie Parker All Stars or people in the 50’s you know. In the early 50’s, and I was allowed to
play on a Monday night on a couple of numbers and Tony Scott had heard that and wearing a drink there was, there is no more
now, there is no more places where musicians meet. In those days there were many record sessions. The guys who were busy they
played in the morning three hours for Tony Bennett, and from 2 to 3 in the afternoon they went to do a commercial for
cigarettes or beer and then again at night another session. But between the sessions there were few places, hangouts, where
the guys went to drink or have a sandwich. And I was, there was one on Broadway where I went, Juniors Tavern it was,
and Tony saw me “Hey I know, I saw, ya don’t you play the” he had heard that I played the guitar also. He said “come with me”
and in those days George Shearing was doing a double bill with Billy Eckstine singer, you follow?
S- Yes, oh yes.
Toots Thielemans- And they were doing a concert at Carnegie Hall which was five blocks from where we were you know having a beer. “Come with me”
he said and he took me by the hand, of course I had a harmonica in my pocket, and he talks himself backstage at Carnegie Hall
you know there was security “I’m a good friend of Mr. Shearing to talk to him” and he talked himself…
Who Was in his dressing room right?
Toots Thielemans- He wanted to show, I mean introduce me to George Shearing and Georges guitar player had to join the army, Dick Garcia had to join the army and Tony he knew everything in New York. He was like the grapevine you know? He said “George you gonna need
a guitar player and here I’ve got the guy for you that can play the guitar and fantastic harmonica.” And George he auditioned
me right there with the harmonica, I didn’t have a guitar in my pocket. “What you want to play?” Body and Soul I said you know,
and I played Body and Soul in this dressing room with George Shearing and that convinced him. He said… I didn’t know
much of George Shearings music but I learned a few of his recordings and I had one rehearsal with George Shearing…
S- That’s amazing, that’s an amazing story.
Toots Thielemans- And then he told me “if you can” those words, they don’t use those words anymore, “if you can cut the guitar book you’ve
got the job” (laughs) but with Shearing the guitar book, there was no book he was blind and later on he had the book but I
had to learn a few things by ear and I, you know, he, that’s how I got that job.
S- How long was that gig?
Toots Thielemans- I stayed six years.
And ahh the week before I started with George Shearing this Billy Shaw, the booker you know, he called “hey kid you want
to go play with Charlie Parker?” (laughs) I said yes.
Toots Thielemans- I was in Philadelphia also. And I was the Dina Washington show in a movie, no in aah… ya, like the Apollo but the equivalent for Philadelphia. A movie theater.
Toots Thielemans- Dina Washington, the queen of the blues featuring the Charlie Parker All Stars, and I was with the All Stars. You know
who they were.
S- Sure it was Miles, Max, Charlie Parker……
Toots Thielemans- Jimmy Cobb, Peter Betts, I still know, you know some of the fellas still alive.
S- That’s an incredible band, incredible group.
Toots Thielemans- Ya Jimmy Cobb was then the boyfriend of Dina.
Toots Thielemans- So (laughs) and Dina was very sweet… “I oh you boy foreign mother fucker” ha ha I worked only a couple of months in the states
you know I…
S- How old were you at that time?
Toots Thielemans- Twenty eight.
S- Twenty eight.
Toots Thielemans- But I started late you know.
S- You started playing accordion I read.
Toots Thielemans- But then while I was three years old. (laughs) .Not professionally, I never played professionally
I prefer the harmonica to the accordion because on the harmonica you can bent the note.
S- That’s right.
Toots Thielemans- But Galliano can do some of it too you know but… (plays harmonica demonstrating bending a note) You can not do that
on the accordion.
S- That’s right.
Toots Thielemans- And ahh so I, I don’t know.
S- When you wrote Bluesette did you write that on guitar or on harmonica?
Toots Thielemans- The guitar.
S- The guitar OK
Toots Thielemans- guitar progressions.
S- Cuz you were whistling…
Toots Thielemans- Back in ’63 that happened.
S- Thats become your national anthem.
Toots Thielemans- My social security I suppose…
Toots Thielemans- I and then ya I was sharing a, I was in Brussels, the first time I played with Steffan Grappelli.. I was a, a jazz show, a concert,
and Steffan played with his own thing and it was the idea that I should play one or two numbers with him. And I shared
his dressing room at the Brussels University where I had gone a few years before. I’m talking about ’63. Well in the
early, yes twenty years before, I went there one year to try to become a mathematics student, but I flopped… I failed and
music kept taking over you know. But there I was in the dressing room with a, sharing a dressing room, with one of my idols. I studied
playing the guitar on the old recordings. 78’s you know, on the wind up phonograph during the war. The Django record, the quintet with
Django Reinhardt & Steffan Grappelli.
S- Oh yeah.
Toots Thielemans- That’s how I started, that was my guitar book.
S- That’s a great book.
Toots Thielemans- No they, I mean the records, there was nothing written about those solos and I just wind up the phonograph, change the needle every two plays (laughs). I still have the phonograph in Belgium.
S- You do?
Toots Thielemans- Yes.
S- Thats funny!
Toots Thielemans- (laughing)
S- Those are 78’s back then right?
Toots Thielemans- Yes.
S- Yep I’ve still got some of those myself.
Toots Thielemans- Yes.
S- Do you find that the audience are different in the United States than Europe for jazz?
Toots Thielemans- Ahh… there’s jazz fans all over you know. I just, in the last month if you look at my web site I played in
Seoul, in Hong Kong, I’ve played many times in Japan, I finished a tour of Sweden, I played in Berlin and in Belgium there
are two communities. The Flemish speaking and the French speaking so every public is different but somehow i have feeling, to me,
that you know, when people come to talk to you after the show the feeling goes a little deeper into the music in America.
S- Oh thats nice, well everybody really…
Toots Thielemans- And of course, you know, yes Its like the people, I am the poor church you know. People come I have all your records Mr. Theilesmans
to me what you play… I prefer what you played 40 years, the way you played 40 years ago. (laughs)
S- Oh no.
Toots Thielemans- But I keep studying on my I-pod you know, thats a fantastic invention. You can put, I have at least 50 cd’s. My records
with Bill Evans, some of the things I did with Quincy, ahhh you know Galliano of course.
S- You were with, you played in Jaco Pastorious big band too.
Toots Thielemans- Oh that’s the strongest coffee, that guy can go. Thats the strongest sensation I’ve ever had.
S- Can you reaccount some of your events about that time?
Toots Thielemans- I beg your pardon?
S- Can you share some of your stories at that time, when you were doing that gig?
Toots Thielemans- Oh, I met, first time I saw Jaco I was on a weather report so much you know. I’m talking about, now I’m talking about
1978 or ’79. And I was representing Belgium at the Berlin jazz festival where I played last month you know, same hall,
philharmonic hall in Berlin and Jaco Pastorious had just left Weather Report you know so we know on short there.
Toots Thielemans- And he went and he zoned, and he did it solo, just with his bass and he did a program playing by himself. Fantastic, but
one journalist at a press conference asked him “Mr. Pastorious you here as a solo act. If you had to do a duo with somebody”
Thats true, a journalist asked Pastorious “Mr. Pastorious if you had to do a duo?” and he looks at the list of, the
menu so to speak of the jazz guys, jazz artists of the Berlin festival in ’79. “Get me Toots” Jaco, those are those words.
I wasn’t there, I wasn’t at the press conference but they told me that he wanted. And then I played, I met Jaco and we
started to talk and he said “I know your records since I a young boy with George Shearing and (his father, Jaco’s father is
still alive I think in Philadelphia) John Pastorious and my father told me one day you gonna play with Toots Thielemans and then
you will have played with a real musician. That’s what my father told me” Jaco said that.
Toots Thielemans- And after we played he told me “you know, my father was right” (laughs) Isn’t that a beautiful story?
S- That is a beautiful story.
Toots Thielemans- And later on you know I recorded with him, I went to Japan. I had a stroke in 1980 and he called me almost every day
at the hospital. he called me papa. “how you doing papa?” (laughs)
Toots Thielemans- And he had at that time a small group with the steel drums. Do you remember that?
S- Yes I do.
Toots Thielemans- Oh good I’m so happy that you know all these things. And I called that little group, there was with tenor, Jaco, steel drums and…
S- Pete Erskin was playing them.
Toots Thielemans- And Brecker, trumpet Brecker.
S- That’s right.
Toots Thielemans- Yes ahh Randy.
S- I saw that band live.
Toots Thielemans- And I had played a couple of things with them at Avery Fisher home, and I had the stroke then shortly after.. No, no I had a stroke
and I had enjoyed, I called it the kitchenette that small group (laughs), its papa they said on the phone from Miami and me in
New York hospital. He said “I’m gonna write some music for the kitchenette”
I said Jaco let me get on my feet first. And then, I mean to shorten the story (phone beeps) going to Japan with him for ten
concerts, and I have never had so much attention, not musically you know, I was played on one of the bands in Japan, but he
had a special roadie for me because Jaco I am just out of the stroke I cannot run and things like that. OK he says and he
got me a Japanese roadie there to carry my harmonica and get me a towel it was in the summer, it was very warm. You need a
towel papa? take care of papa. (laughs) I’m so, I’m ready to cry when I think of those memories you know.
S- That’s a beautiful story and it was a wonderful band. The Word of Mouth Band wasn’t that what it was called?
Toots Thielemans- The Word of Mouth I was with that before my stroke. I had the stroke shortly after.
S- Well it sounds like you’ve made a miraculous recovery by the way you played last night, I mean you sounded just fantastic.
Toots Thielemans- Well my left hand and my foot, my leg is weak, but I’m 82 you know so many guys don’t have even their leg to talk about (laughs)
But you know but my left hand, my left side, is weaker than my right side on account of the stroke. But then as they say
I’m still here to talk about it you know.
S- And looking at your calendar it looks like you’re going back over to Europe.
Toots Thielemans- Oh I know, I know. My mentally music, my, you know, I practice and listen to everything I have for instance Herbie Hancock
Gershwin tribute where Stevie Wonder plays. You know that?
S- Yes. St. Louis blues.
Toots Thielemans- Right.
Owww Stevie, oh he’s fantastic. And the harmonica establishment… “Oh he has no technique”
S- Perhaps they don’t even hear, they’re so involved with doing tricks with the harmonica, wearing funny hats… excuse me but they have that harmonica convention this SPAH and they call that association SPAH, Society for Progression, for Perfection and Advancement of the Harmonica, with funny
hats and comedy routines.
Toots Thielemans- No, they make a lot of people happy, because many people they, the harmonica is their little claim to fame. There’s a few
good players you know that don’t play jazz but jazz is not on the menu of that convention, or a little bit because they
Toots Thielemans- But don’t say that ya the harmonica has a society and bla bla bla to perfect and the advancement of the harmonica. I was
invited once and in their monthly magazine, two three or no quarterly magazine, they never mentioned of my name, or jazz.
You know there’s, in Italy for instance there’s some good jazz players on the harmonica.
Toots Thielemans- Be-bop I might still be OK this year number one or I’m the first ones in other words. But those like this little swiss fellow
I mentioned to you he heard me of course and he respects what I do, but he has his own direction you will hear about him.
If that record with Metheny comes out get it you know.
S- I’ll be looking for that.
Toots Thielemans- The new Metheny.
S- OK, and I mean…
Toots Thielemans- I don’t know if its already released but he’s told me about the session you know. And he’s going to go on tour with Metheny
he’ll play in Belgium and I’ll go if I’m there if I’m not in Japan I’ll go listen (laughs).
S- And you said you’re a big fan of Stevie Wonder.
Toots Thielemans- Oh yes.
S- Have you met Stevie?
Toots Thielemans- Yes several times and, I am from the mentally how you say receptive, and partial to the African American sound you know?
Toots Thielemans- What would music be, all kinds of music that we like, without the African American?
S- I can’t even Imagine.
Toots Thielemans- There would be, without Louie Armstrong ok, without Ray Charles, without Dizzy, without Billie Holiday, without Stevie,
without Quincy, without Wayne Shorter, imagine that. If there hadn’t been slaves brought from Africa, its a dangerous
thing to say but Louie Armstrong would have been somebody brilliant maybe but in Africa… right?
S- Well ya I never thought of it like that.
Toots Thielemans- Or no Michael Jackson imagine that. Elvis Presley would not have been the same without the black sound, he spoke the black
language with the country, with the Nashville, the ahh southern sound. But its still, you see maybe it’s dangerous you know
to say that its, I don’t think that all, that those easy say oh they all have rhythm… of course they all have, most of them, many
of them, a high percentage more but to me, my I play, I try to play the African American language and I will always have
been, will I always, you can print that, I will always have my Belgium accent, my European accent, my white accent. There’s
not one, that maybe you shouldn’t write, there’s not one non black musician that has a black sound, no. And that’s what
Quincy likes about me, Quincy Jones he keeps saying, he calls me stink.
Toots Thielemans- Ya you know why?
S- No why?
Toots Thielemans- Because when I play I smell like a black fellow that needs to take a shower.
S- He calls you what did you say?
Toots Thielemans- Like the word funk.
S- Oh funk OK.
Toots Thielemans- You know where that comes from? That’s the body odor of a man who needs a shower, thats what funk, the inside
I mean the people “oh you funky” now it became an adjective, a cross over adjective you know?
Toots Thielemans- But it was you know, I sat in the bus next to Lester Young, next I sat in the Birdland bus (phone beeps) Holiday.
I know the word mother fucker but i never used it as a joke but not (phone beeps) the black person. But when Quincy
Jones calls me “man you’re a funky mother fucker” (laughs) and I cry with joy when some people like that you know…
S- Ya its meant totally as a compliment.
Toots Thielemans- I’m not bragging but it is the truth, its not racism, i guess there used to be expression like Jim Crow right?
Toots Thielemans- This may be crow jim.
Toots Thielemans- No but I have been playing with Bill Evans for instance, there’s no black Bill Evans right? And there’s no white Herbie
Hancock either. Kenny Werner is fantastic.
S- Oh undoubetly.
Toots Thielemans- There’s no black Kenny Werner, but Kenny is not black and I’m not black either but we, we play, we speak, you have to
be careful in phrasing that right if you do an article.
S- Right.( I’m trying)
Toots Thielemans- But no, its what comes out of the inner
city you know. I, somebody offered me a DVD you know, like a TV that you put on your TV set.
Toots Thielemans- Its not the TV tape you know, but I have the Life of Louie Armstrong, I put that down religiously and cry when you see the
way this man played (sings) When you smiling… get the DVD and tie yourself down to a chair and don’t let the phone ring.
S- I want to do that.
Toots Thielemans- Do that and think of me in passing when he does ohh maybe 100 years, no not yet but in the early 20’s he did with his band
When You’re Smiling he plays in the high register just the melody on the recording equipment of those years. Ah Louie…
And Winton Marsalis explaining beautifully and with so much respect the phrasing of Louie Armstrong. You should get that.
S- I’m going to, thats been on my list of things, I’ve heard about that before.
Toots Thielemans- Oh, and…
S- I have a video of you in fact.
Toots Thielemans- Oh ya, possibly yes.
S- Um, you played, I noticed last night you played The Days of Wine & Roses, you took the second half of the tune and you modulated it up a minor third.
Toots Thielemans- Yes that was my arrangement.
S- That was a nice arrangement.
Toots Thielemans- And when Bill Evans heard that he said “hey that’s nice can we record that?” A now of course we did record that and now
everybody says lets play the Bill Evans arrangement. (laughs)
S- That was your arrangement.
Toots Thielemans- It is my idea to cut it in to play and sometimes when I try to be funny the wine is in F and the roses are in A flat folks.
(laughs) That’s dumb don’t write that.
S- No that’s funny (laughs)
Toots Thielemans- You know but its true you know. That’s an idea I had.
S- That’s great, when you played Bluesette it sounded like, I haven’t heard you play the song for a long time, that you had
different harmonizations in the song a little bit. Or maybe was it…
Toots Thielemans- The harmonization we play here is an idea of Kenny. He said Toots I have some chords on blue Zinn.(laughs)
And then we started to play that they’re fantastic.
S- You sounded great ya. I don’t know what he was doing but i sat there listening and boy I’d like to cop those those
are nice changes.
Toots Thielemans- Oh you should, I mean, you should get his book.
S- I’ve heard of that .
Toots Thielemans- Its heavy.
S- I’m going to get that.
Toots Thielemans- It is not, of course it talks about music but it would be of interest, its a psychiatrists approach to creativity you know?
Toots Thielemans- If a painter isn’t sure, if you tell him, if you’re a painter or a musician, or a writer or poet and you, its a self
analysis, a study of yourself weather you’re a painter or a writer or a musician. Its so perfect, its a psychiatry of Kenny…
S- Oh he’s a beautiful player, some day we hope to interview him.
Toots Thielemans- I don’t know, he’s not given the credit he deserves you know.
S- Well people will hear about him when they read this article cuz we’ll, you know we’re going to mention his name and
everything, the band, people who played…
Toots Thielemans- This article for what?
S- Well this will go on my web site.
Toots Thielemans- Ah.
S- Its an online web site and it has jazz interviews from great jazz players like yourself..
Toots Thielemans- Oh you should interview him.
S- Ya we want to do that. We just interviewed Dr.Lonnie Smith.
Toots Thielemans- I thought your direction was mostly harmonica you know.
S- Well it started as a melodica web site but we’ve started interviewing, just great jazz players we have kind
documented the anthology of their lives so people can know about it, people can be exposed to it, that aren’t
familiar with this stuff.
Toots Thielemans- Ya.
S- And there’s so many people that will come to buy a melodica and they’ll say I love the way Toots Thielemans sounds what…
Toots Thielemans- The melodica… that’s like the buttons of an accordion or a piano right?
S- It is yes, its a different instrument, its a free reed but its a different instrument but. I still take mine to Dick Gardner’s
you know, to have him tune them fore me sometimes.
Toots Thielemans- Oh, he came by last night.
S- I heard that, I missed him I was sitting up front.
Toots Thielemans- He didn’t stay for the show, and ahh, he does my harmonica work.
S- I’m sorry?
Toots Thielemans- He does, when I have a good instrument I like to be looked at and taken care of or revamped a little bit I leave it
with him and he fed-ex’s it to, he you know he sends federal express to Belgium. You know we in good contact I mean,
I’m a client and a friend.
S- Oh he’s a big fan too ya, he does great work.
Toots Thielemans- He’s a character you know, he has these jokes. (laughs)
S- He is funny. I appreciate your time on this interview, is there anything you’d like to conclude with? or speak about?
Some upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
Toots Thielemans- That after all those years I believe I know, see my motto, the king of Belgium gave me this title of Barron, that’s like Sir
in England you know.
Toots Thielemans- And as a Barron I need like a motto you know, what you believe in, a short phrase, and first they wanted it either French, Flemish
or Latin. I said, and i’m a two language ahh ya know bi-lingual Belgian so if I play Waloon Belgium with a Flemish motto they (laughs)
you know what I mean. And Latin is not my stuff either so I, I about 40 years ago somebody told me “oh man, I want to
be myself no more, no less”. I never forgot that phrase and I have to change the phrase because the people in charge of
nobility, I’m a nobel you know, in Belgium and they said “can you change, can you rather say be yourself. be myself is too
egotistical” they said you know.
Toots Thielemans- They talk about yourself. My motto is Be yourself, no more, no less.
S- Well that’s a beautiful motto.
Toots Thielemans- That’s old Greek philosophy you know. Socrates I think. I learned it first in French… know thyself, but I like this better.
Be yourself, no more, no less. And you can say that Louie Armstrong is still my number one goal.
S- I heard you say that last night and we’ll put that in this interview.
Toots Thielemans- Yes. He still is, I only played 28 seconds with him (laughs) for a Chrysler car commercial.
Toots Thielemans- 28 seconds… you know
S- Boy I might go out and buy that car now you know. That’s great.
Toots Thielemans- Louie man, give yourself a Christmas man. Get that its life. There might be several but this one, the guy who wrote a lot for
the New Yorker, Gideons the journalist among the producers. You look at the web site and see which, there, I’m sure there
are several but you will die when you hear Louie play the melody When you’re Smiling in the upper ranges.
S- I’m looking forward to that.
Toots Thielemans- Louie, oh you have to get that OK?
S- That’s great, thank you so much for your time sir.
Toots Thielemans- You’re very welcome.
S- Barron Toots Thielemans.
Toots Thielemans- It was a pleasure because sometimes you get interviews that become shots… Oh I know jazz, do you know John Coltrane?
I’m not sure I know. And then interview you you know what I mean?
Toots Thielemans- Then you have to try to be polite I said fuck you, you know man? You write something about a subject get informed
about the subject. Not the person necessarily but. And you knew everything I dropped (laughs)
S- Well I’ve followed this and I have a love for this and I want to try and preserve it in any way I can. I play
keyboards for a living, but this is just great you know to preserve your story, and get it out there for people.
T- Ok man.
S- And stay healthy!
S- You’re still a kid at heart.
T- I’m still in bed. I took a shower, brushed my teeth (laughs)
S- Well that is wonderful. I’ll try and stop down and see you tonight if I can.
S- Thanks a lot Toots.
S- Bye bye.
Visit toots Thieleman’s site http://www.tootsthielemans.com