Toots Thielemans on first coming to the U.S.

Now, A Jazz Moment...

MUSIC: "Body and Soul," CD: Verve Jazz Masters 59: Toots Thielemans, Verve 314535271-2 (cut 2)

The harmonica is seldom considered a jazz instrument -- except in the hands of Nea Jazz Master Toots Thielemans. When Thielemans first visited the United States in the late 40s from his native Belgium, a jazz insider immediately introduced him to the scene down on New York City's legendary 52nd Street.

Toots Thielemans: He said, "Hey, I got this guy here from Belgium." They didn't know Belgium. Oh yeah? "And he plays the harmonica." Boo, they didn't wanna hear about harmonica. But when a musician meets somebody after talking three words, he trusts him. (chuckles) And I sat in -- there was Percy Heath on bass, Hank Jones, JJ Johnson, all those guys, the beboppers of those days. And then there was an agent, "Hey, you're good. Where are you from?" I'm from Brussels. "Oh, I know. That's in Copenhagen." (laughs) Typical cigar, Hollywood, you know. (laughs) That was my first evening in the States.

MUSIC: same - up and fades

This Jazz Moment with harmonica player Toots Thielemans was created by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Toots Thielemans on first coming to the U.S.