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Buenos Aires Herald, 16 de enero de 2002
Toots Thielemans steals the show


Punta del Este- If there were anyone who still doubted that music jeeps you young, just look at jazzman Totts Thielemans, who celbrated his 80th birthdayin the company of hundreds of fans on the last night of the Punta del Este Jazz Festival. Surrounded by some of the world's best jazz musicians (one of whom was only a quarter of Toot's age), the great Belgian harmonica player showed that with a simple instrtument, great musicianship and, above all, deeply-felt emotion you can make moments of sublime beauty-and of course steal hearst an ears.

No one who was presente at the end of the Seventh Punta del Este Jazz Festival will ever forget it. At one of the most extraordinary jazz gatherings around, that last night´s impeccable line-up included the Alberto Magnone Quintet; the jazz-flamenco fusion of Chano Dominguez; Toots Thielemans with pianist Kenny Werner back for their second performance at the festival; and Paquito D´Rivera and the Dairy Farm All Stars, a pick-up band formed from Paquito´s own band peppered with some of the great jazz talent hanging around on the farm where the festival is held. This year the All Stars added to their ranks guitarist Russel Malone (known for his work with Diana Krall) and this year´revelation, 18-years-old trompeter Christian Scott.

As if all this weren´t enough to carry local jazz fans through to next year´s festival, Paquito then called Toots to the stage. While Toots was weaving his magic in a solo, a cake replete with 80 candles was rolled out and the already charged final chow of the festival turned iunto a birthday party for the much-loved Toots. The crowd, now on its feet, sang a rousing Happy Birthday led by Paquito´s clarinet.

Toots Thielemans in one of the great legends of jazz. As one wag remarked, most musicians cite a long list of great musicians they have played with in order to prove their credentials. With Toots it´s different: everyone brags that they once played with him. The list of his collaborators is long and illustrius: Edith Piaf, Paul Simon, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Django Reinhardt, Benny Goodman, Elis Regina ann Miles Davis among many orhers. He has also comoposed films scores and the theme song for Sesame Street. His most famous composition and the one most often covered by other jazz musicians is the delicious Bluesette. Festival organizer Francisco Yovino, ecstatic that his festival had ended on such a triumphant note, said, “Bringiong Toots Thielemans to the stage here is one of those dreams. He´s a musical legend... It was very emotional, but that´s the way Toots is. Just as he knows how to move you with the songs he chooses and his way of interpreting them. I think that we also moved him.”

For Yobino, putting on the festival each year is a labour of love. (Paquito took to calling him “Don Quijote of the Dairy Farm.”) Against all odds, he has tranformed a seemingly impossible dream into reality by makin his farm in Punta del Estehome to the foremost jazz festival in Latin América and a preferred destination for jazz musicians. Joe Lovano, named “Jazz Artist of the Year” recently by Down Beat magazine calls the festival his musical home. Many musicians do all they canto get an invitation-and it´s no wonder. The other day, observers saw Yobino´s childrens taking Donald Harrison´s bandmates for a horsebeck ride around the farm.

The result is that all pampering and adoration by Yobino´s staff and family(as well as good, old fashioned attention to detail) shows up in the music. Inevitably, extraordinary things happen on stage on the festival. Take Oscar Giunta´s and Horacio Fumero´s

drum-bass duet on Thursday; Rosa Passos and Paquito D´Rivera playing Jobim´s Só Danço Samba that same night; Russel Malone´s sure, soothing guitar work on Saturday; Kenny Werner any time he touched the piano keys; the inspired arrogance of the flamenco bailaor Tomasito (brought by Chano Dominguez; Paquaito´s clarinet calling, calling.

And of course Toots. “ My music is between a smile and a tear”. Said Toots, seated on a bench in front of the “Rancho de los Músicos”. A small barn qhere the musicians hanfg out before and after their performaces. “The blues is there, And Van Gogh is there. The pastel color is there. The pastel is not black, it´s not white, it´s betwenen the two. It´s gray. Gray is not sad and Gray is not happy ... About 10 years ago a journalist asked me; “Were does the real Toots Thielemans feel at home?” And qithaout thinking it cme out between a smile and a tear.”

Those of us who were there will remember this year´s festival with a broad smile inside, buth there will also be a tear became it all had to end so soon.


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