It is difficult to have an unbiased discussion about Toots Thielemans and his impact on chromatic harmonica, because he possessed the same unequaled position of honor in the harmonica Universe which Andres Segovia had in guitar. Toots was “it.”
Simply put, Toots had the greatest impact on chromatic harmonica of all players in history, and you’re talking to a huge Tommy Reilly fan.
His music is a blend of unerring feel for melody with melodic decorations which no player has equaled, he was the equivalent of Jaco Pastorius on bass guitar (considered the final word on Bass) and the two performed together often.
Toots was beloved by the GREATS in jazz in their heyday, and he made the chromatic harmonica a revered part of the Jazz scene the world over, and made more recordings that he even could list…I think it’s over 3,000 total.
He was a gentleman and professional in his conduct always, a credit to the chromatic harmonica community, and audiences loved him…and through his recordings love him and his music still.
I feel the highpoint of his skills were the two BRAZIL PROJECT CD’s, but that’s merely a personal choice. You’ll enjoy a walk down the many epochs of his recordings, from early work which included him playing jazz guitar and whistling to the famous CDs where his virtuosity on the chromatic harmonica is given full rein.
He lived with the sadness of seeing a woman he care for very much, and performed with so much, Elis Regina, die prematurely from drugs. That they were very close friends was clear to all.
I regret I did not have a chance to meet him, but I tried…asking to interview him for the book LOVE OF CHROMATIC HARMONICA…TECHNIQUES AND ADVICE FROM THE WORLD’S BEST! but his health was very poor at the time…and then he was gone.
Here is a link to his pages on Wikipedia, which they update from time to time…
Remember him as you would a star in the heavens.