I learned a few minutes ago that Toots Thielemans died at the age of 94. It’s impossible to overstate how important Toots is and was to the development of modern…

I learned a few minutes ago that Toots Thielemans died at the age of 94.

Toots Thielemans at 90, blowing strong.

Toots Thielemans at 90, blowing strong.

It’s impossible to overstate how important Toots is and was to the development of modern harmonica styles. If you play chromatic harmonica, you had to decide whether you were going to follow Toots’ lead, or find your own path; he was impossible to ignore either way. His sound was his own–you knew it was him after hearing two notes of a recording. His rhythmic conception was shaped by John Coltrane, and his harmonic conception cleverly took into account the physical structure of the chromatic harmonica and the things that structure would and would not allow. He made beauty on every record he touched.

Thanks, Toots, for all the great music, for the generous spirit, and for choosing harmonica as your voice.

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