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June 2002

Toots Thielemans/Kenny Werner
Toots Thielemans and Kenny Werner
Verve

This duo album is, as you would anticipate, the epitome of lyricism and affinity. Thielemans, who has made the chromatic harmonica a jazz instrument, and Werner, a most sensitive pianist, mesh almost telepathically throughout this date. Werner's use of the string synthesizer suggests, in Thielemans' words, Claus Ogermann or Johnny Mandel. The music flows from one player to another without boundaries.

In an earlier day, these performances might have been called "mood music," implying a pervasive romantic aura and lots of melodic jazz content. The appellation applies without indictment as Thielemans wraps his wistful phrases and held notes around Werner's introspective, impressionistic harmonies. Things start with Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" and follow with medleys of songs associated with Frank Sinatra, Michel Legrand, Bill Evans and Walt Disney. Interspersed are tunes such as Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," Chick Corea's "Windows," Bach's "Sicilienne" and "Autumn Leaves."

Thielemans' bent notes, accordionlike tone and bittersweet lines conjure up Miles Davis, Paris in the spring and an intimate rendezvous. (Your little-traveled reviewer imagines a cinematic Europe to a jazz soundtrack.) There is a hint of Evans in Werner's touch and chords. (More romantic imagery.)

Regardless of what you call this music, it speaks of beauty, refinement and perfect taste.

Originally published in June 2002
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