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Tuesday 20 February 2018

Jazz harmonica star Toots Thielemans dies aged 94

Belgian jazz musician and harmonica player Toots Thielemans, pictured in 2014, has died aged 94 (AP)
Belgian jazz musician and harmonica player Toots Thielemans, pictured in 2014, has died aged 94 (AP)

Jazz harmonica player Toots Thielemans has died in Belgium at the age of 94.

Belgian media reported that Thielemans died in his sleep on Monday morning.

Broadcaster RTL reported that his manager, Veerle Van de Poel, said: "There were no complications. He died of old age, his body was simply worn out."

Mr Van de Poel could not be immediately reached for confirmation.

Jean-Baptiste Frederic Isidore Thielemans was a star in his own right but also played with jazz greats like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis as well as mainstream stars such as Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel.


Born in Brussels on April 29, 1922, Thielemans started playing the harmonica as a hobby and got "contaminated" by the jazz virus during the German occupation, according to his website.

His first international breakthrough came in 1950 when he joined Benny Goodman on a European concert tour. He emigrated to the US in 1952, joining Charlie Parker's All Stars.

His harmonica solos figure on many film scores, including Midnight Cowboy, The Getaway and Sugarland Express, but also on the theme music to the popular children's series Sesame Street.

Thielemans, who also played guitar, was honoured by Belgium's royal family in 2001 when King Albert II gave him the title of baron.

The US National Endowment for the Arts granted him the 2009 Jazz Master Award.

Thielemans hung up his harmonica in 2014 as health problems linked to his age made it more difficult for him to take to the stage.

A jazz festival held in his name is due to take place from September 9-11 in the town of La Hulpe, some 16 miles south-east of Brussels, where Thielemans lived.


Press Association

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