Harmonica master Toots Thielemans retiring at 91

Belgian jazz legend Toots Thielemans is retiring at the age of 91 after ill health forced him to scrap a concert in Antwerp for the second time in three months. The harmonica master, who enjoyed a 70-year career, announced the news on Wednesday (12Mar14), on the eve of his planned show at the city’s De Roma venue. Two other gigs scheduled to take place in Antwerp have also been axed.
His agent, Veerle Van de Poel, reveals Thielemans “no longer feels strong enough to be sure of completing a concert”.
She adds, “So as not to disappoint his fans, he has decided to cancel all his concerts. (He) wants to benefit from a rest richly deserved. He can look back on a beautiful and very successful international career.”
Born Jean-Baptiste Frederic Isidore Thielemans, the musician landed his big break in 1950, at the age of 28, when he was invited to join Benny Goodman on tour in Europe.
He later moved to the U.S. and worked with jazz great Charlie Parker, before collaborating with the likes of Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson.
Thielemans has suffered from ailing health in recent years, but he celebrated his 90th birthday in 2012 by embarking on a world tour.
After the retirement announcement, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo reached out to Thielemans via Twitter.com, writing, “Thank you Toots. You gave us many magic moments!”