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May 2001

Toots Thielemans
The Live Takes: Vol. One
Narada Media

The jazz world would certainly be a poorer place without such a generous talent as Toots Thielemans, who single-handedly brought the chromatic harmonica into its fold. For nearly 50 years he's made a slew of well-received recordings and thrilled audiences around the globe with his animated harmonica playing, to say nothing of his exuberant whistling abilities. Curiously, however, on The Live Takes the acclaimed Belgian musician is heard in a series of soporific tunes. The only animated piece is a Gershwin medley ("I Loves You Porgy/Summertime") with Thielemans and pianist Kenny Werner really digging in! The only other treat is a duet with Werner on an exquisite version of "Stardust." On the other seven tracks a synthesizer swamps everything with its flaccid string-section washes. Previously issued in Europe, these tunes were recorded at gigs "from Birdland to Belgium"; the producers must have selected the slowest performances from each one.

Originally published in May 2001
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