Essential Toots Thielemans Albums

I have just finished a series of transcriptions of Toots Thielemans solos from a various albums. After having done a few in 2013, I made it a New Years Resolution to do ten. Why someone would take on such a maniacal task is beyond me, but people have done crazier things. Ten for Toots – 10 Toots Thielemans Chromatic Harmonica Solos – Transcribed and Analyzed, will be available in both ebook and paper form in September 2014. If you are interested in adding a few jazz albums to your collection that feature the great Toots Thielemans, start with three. This is after many years of narrowing down the list. Toots is the man!

Here are my top three.

1. Bill Evans Affinity (Warner Bros., 1979)
Toots playing on this album is magical. The rapport between Toots and Bill Evans is great and just about everything about this album makes it a must have. It is one of those albums where in many ways the music is so collaborative, who the leader is not needed. Toots had a lot of input on the choice of material for this album. The tunes bounce back from jazz standards to interesting takes on more contemporary material. A few really unknown tunes are also played. The quality of the harmonica micing with this recording is probably the best I have heard. Great band!

2. Man Bites Harmonica! (Riverside, 1958)
A great straight ahead jazz album and Toots plays with a lot of drive throughout. The pairing of harmonica with Baritone Sax (Pepper Adams) is unusual but works really well. I am putting this as number two as it will give the listener some perspective as to how Toots’ music developed over time.

If you love Brazilian music and want to discover artists that will blow you away, this is your album!


3. The Brasil Project (BMG, 1992)
I have not heard The Brasil Project 2, but after hearing The Brasil Project, I must say that this is a phenomenal album. Not only does if feature a who’s who in Brasilian music, Toots playing is simply outstanding. The songs by Joao Bosca and Djavan are excellent. Luis Bonfa playing his song Black Orpheus in a definitive way, will make you rethink this now jazz standard after may years of abuse north of the equator. Outstanding production values.

10 Toots Thielemans Chromatic Harmonica Solos – Transcribed and Analyzed

By Paul Lyons


Now available at Lulu Press – Print

Now available at Lulu Press – Digital

An in-depth look at the style of one of the great improvisors of the last 50 years. Excellent for not only chromatic harmonica players, but jazz players of all instruments.


Table of Contents

  • Introduction – 3
  • Why Transcribe – 5
  • Don’t Blame Me – Man Bites Harmonica! (Riverside, 1958) – 6
  • Three In One – Man Bites Harmonica! (Riverside, 1958) – 11
  • Sno’ Peas – Bill Evans Affinity (Warner Bros., 1979) – 18
  • Blue in Green – Bill Evans Affinity (Warner Bros., 1979) – 20
  • Jesus’ Last Ballad – Bill Evans Affinity (Warner Bros., 1979) – 23
  • Only Trust Your Heart – Only Trust Your Heart (Concord Records, 1988) – 26
  • C To G Jam Blues – Footprints (Polygram Records, 1991) – 30
  • Felicia and Bianca – The Brasil Project (BMG, 1992) -36
  • Coisa Feita – The Brasil Project (1992, BMG) – 38
  • Everybody’s Talkin’, Midnight Cowboy: Original Motion Picture Score [Soundtrack] (1969) – 45
  • Conclusion – 48
  • References – 48
  • Etudes – 49 – 80