Toots Thielemans

29/04/1922 - 22/08/2016
Aug 23 2016
In the person of Toots Thielemans, Brussels had a living jazz legend as its ambassador. The adjective "living jazz legend" fits Toots perfectly. When he began his music career, there was no bebop, free and fusion had yet to be invented and nobody had any idea that electronics would lead to a new offshoot of jazz. Toots was involved in it all and as a musician, he survived every radical innovation.

As a youngster, he immediately established a reputation as an accordionist in his parents' café, Trapken Af at No. 241, rue Haute. That was where Jean-Baptiste Thielemans was born on 29 April 1922. It is true that Thielemans did spend a large part of his childhood in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean where his parents moved, but he is still considered to this day as a real Marollien.


Meanwhile, he also learned to play the guitar, again he was self-taught and inspired by Django Reinhardt among others. He also had a real stage name: Toots, after two musicians who played in the Benny Goodman Orchestra (Toots Camarata (trumpet) and Toots Mondello (sax)). At first, Toots played popular light music until in the early 'forties, he heard a record by Louis Armstrong and The Mills Brothers. After that, he had definitely been bitten by the jazz bug. In 1947, his uncle invited him to go on holiday to America, and then there was no stopping him.

In the early 'fifties, Toots moved to America to try his luck. Like almost all musicians starting out, he experienced some tough times. But he was the right man in the right place when George Shearing needed a guitarist. It became a six-year tour. Then Toots met and played with all the icons of jazz history, including Lester Young, and band members of the Count Basie Orchestra and Billie Holiday. 

To collect your messages in memory of Toots Thielemans a book of condolence opened at the Espace Toots in the town of La Hulpe (Rue des combattants, 61). Opene every day from 10 am to 8 pm, until 26th of August. 

The funeral will be held at St. Nicolas church in La Hulpe on Saturday August 27th at 11am.