Review: ‘Toots Thielemans Quartet’

Toots is a charmer and a gentleman, all right, but it wasn't enough to completely override a band that just didn't have it together in the first set. Keyboardist Kenny Werner often burdened Thielemans' intros with a synthetic string sound that couldn't breathe naturally, and his piano solos tended to wander listlessly. Worse, Adam Nussbaum's drumming was needlessly cluttered, and even Toots seemed to feel the strain on the second chorus of "In Your Own Sweet Way" (though the complicated cross-rhythms made sense in "All Blues").

Toots is a charmer and a gentleman, all right, but it wasn’t enough to completely override a band that just didn’t have it together in the first set. Keyboardist Kenny Werner often burdened Thielemans’ intros with a synthetic string sound that couldn’t breathe naturally, and his piano solos tended to wander listlessly. Worse, Adam Nussbaum’s drumming was needlessly cluttered, and even Toots seemed to feel the strain on the second chorus of “In Your Own Sweet Way” (though the complicated cross-rhythms made sense in “All Blues”).

Toots carried the show — and one could only hope that in the rest of his Catalina gig, which lasts through Sunday, the rhythm section settles down.

Toots Thielemans Quartet

(Catalina Bar & Grill, Hollywood; 105 seats; $ 18 top)

Production

Presented by Catalina Bar & Grill. Band: Jean (Toots) Thielemans, Kenny Werner, Jay Anderson, Adam Nussbaum. Reviewed Sept. 26, 1995. To hear the Belgian jazz harmonica champ Jean (Toots) Thielemans in an intimate club setting is a treat, and one should and could be grateful for that. But it wasn't an optimum occasion, in part due to an unfocused backup group. Thielemans, 73, who records for Private

Creative

Music, remains unrivaled in his ability to squeeze the most expressive nuances out of his humble instrument in a ballad, particularly if it happens to be Brazilian. Facing a small but attentive audience on the compact Catalina bandstand, Thielemans could soar and swoop and curve around Ivan Lins' "Let's Start Again" and inject unique soul into Paul Simon's "I Do It for Your Love."

Cast

With disarming candor, he admitted that "Send in the Clowns" didn't exactly send him until Dori Caymmi reharmonized it -- and the results, while not as far off the original as we were led to believe, were starkly moving. He also took out his guitar and did his scat whistling-with-the-guitar bit in "Bluesette," a signature tune the cognoscenti in the house immediately whistled right back at him.
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