Toots Thielemans celebrated his 90th birthday Friday and Saturday nights at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Toots is a world class jazz harmonica player, guitarist and and can whistle to beat the band. It was a very rare appearance by one of the world's greatest musicians.
I was lucky enough to work with Toots back in the day when we all did commercials. I have pictures of the famous Chrysler commercial we did with Louis Armstrong. Also on the birthday bill was Oscar Castro-Neves, (who did the film, HouseSitter, with Toots) and Kenny Werner, a longtime pianist with Toots.
It was a reunion of love and great music. Also joining Toots at the concerts were Dori Caymmi of Brazilian music aristocracy, Eliane Elias and Herbie Hancock. Their joy at playing with Toots was clear to the audience. A lot of musicians that I recognized were there—all laughing and crying to hear our “Toots.” There will never be the likes of him again.
Ed Keane came from Boston to escort me and to hear this great music. We could not let the moment go. When we came back to my home, we stayed up and talked for a while—a long while.
Dori Caymmi came to talk to my Saturday class, made up of some very wonderful professional singer/songwriters. I didn't want to impose on him and had expected him to spend about an hour. He stayed three, and played and sang for us. I thought I would go straight up. I prayed that someone would catch me by the ankles. The time flew by as he answered questions about Brazilian rhythms, the time he feels various beats from South America and special tunings on the guitar. We were all spellbound.