Toots Thielemans, the harmonica-playing baron
Toots Thielemans started playing the accordion at the age of 3 and took up the harmonica as a hobby. He developed a real passion for jazz during the German occupation.
His journey to the United States a few years later made him want to establish his career there; he emigrated there in 1952 and became a member of Charlie Parker's "All-Stars" band in Philadelphia and the "George Shearing Quintet", playing the guitar. At the end of 1962, he composed Bluesette, which became a classic and brought him international acclaim.
Toots Thielemans became a benchmark for harmonica playing, having played works by Henry Mancini, Tin Pan Alley and Hoagy Camichael. He also played with Charlie Parker, Charlie Haden, Ella Fitzgerald, David Sanborn, Quincy Jones, Bill Evans, Natalie Cole, Nick Cave, Franck Sinatra, Ray Charles and others.
In 2001, King Albert II ennobled him with the title of baron. In the same year, he also received the title of Professor Honoris Causa at two Brussels universities and the title of "Commendador da Ordem do Rio Branco" from Gilberto Gill, a high-level distinction in Brazil.