I first met Toots Thielemans when I was only 17 years old, in Seville, during the World Exposition of 1992. My father and I had travelled there to hear and meet the great Toots Thielemans! I was beginning to get interested in jazz so I was really excited! We arranged to meet in the lobby of his hotel for a coffee and chat with Toots before the concert. The moment arrived and suddenly I was there sitting beside the genius of jazz harmonica. I felt the luckiest boy on earth.
I´m not sure what the conversation was about but after 10 minutes Toots said something I will never forget. He looked at me and said: Hey boy! you must be kidding if you think I´m going to let you play with me on stage like Larry Adler did! Imagine how I felt. For one second I was devastated.
Then he continued: Let´s see, what scale would you play on a Dmin7(b5) chord? I answered wrong not only because I was nervous but also because, to be honest, I had no clue of what Dmin7(b5) meant. My knowledge of harmony at that point was only about I IV V progressions. He stoped me and said: You still have to study a lot if you want to come up on stage with me. From that day on I started to take the study of harmony and improvisation seriously and I understood that playing the harmonica very well wasn´t enough if I wanted to play jazz.
I will always thank Toots for being so honest with me on a critical point of my career.
The rest is history…
Thank you Toots!!
This appeared in the October 2016 issue of Harmonica World as part of a special tribute to Toots.