Jazz Heads: Rudy Van Gelder and Toots Thielemanns have both died.

RVG: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Van_Gelder
Toots: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toots_Thielemans

Rudy was a preeminent jazz record producer. His recordings have a warm intimacy given how he placed the mics and set levels. His name on the engineer credit came to be a real geek’s priority - when Blue Note had him remaster his tracks for CD, they were branded the Rudy Van Gelder Collection. Very cool.

Toots was a masterful jazz harpist/harmonica player, which says something merely by existing. He got used a lot in the 70’s so we hear him a lot more often than you might think, e.g. The Sesame Street theme.

Thanks to both.

Thanks for this. I had heard about Toots’ passing (pretty much created the sound defining a '70s childhood), but not Rudy’s. Until now, I knew nothing about Rudy other than his so-familiar name, printed on dozens of CDs strewn throughout my house and car.

Are you sure about the harpist bit? I knew he played guitar and harmonica but not harp.

Anyway, he played with Benny Goodman, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Pat Metheny and Jaco Pastorius among many others so most jazz fans have heard him at one point or another. He also played on a lot of film soundtracks.

I’ve always liked this picture of him, taken, it seems in 1975. The clothes, posters, furniture, hairdos (and facial hair !) remind me of the Belgium of my childhood.

LEPS - in the U.S., “Harmonica Player” is often shortened to “Harpist” - and a blues harmonica is often referred to a as a “Blues harp.”

I had just typed jazz harpist, then went back and specifically included harmonica player in case that wasn’t a universal thing.

He was also a master whistler.

Yes - in the Tributes I read and listened to, they stressed what a great musician he was. Could play many things with great musicality. Again, getting a jazz harmonica a credible role in a lot of songs pretty much says it all.

I didn’t know that, thanks !


That style of harmonica playing is, of course, a quintessentially French sound, which I love. To make it appeal to an American audience was quite a feat.

I was lucky enough to see Toots, twice. With Kenny Werner, Airto, Oscar Castro-Neves (sp?). He exuded joy. What a beautiful person, and a very great musician.

A wonderful tribute to RVG in The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/culture/richard-brody/postscript-rudy-van-gelder-1924-2016-modern-jazzs-listener-of-genius

Amen. Sad news.

Very sad. I was never a big fan of his, but regard him fondly for lending his talent to Laura Nyro’s first album, More Than a New Discovery (1967, reissued in 1974 as The First Songs.).

That’s him wailing away on the classics “And When I Die,” “Stoney End,” and “Wedding Bell Blues.”

Laura got some great jazzmen – Stan Getz, Lew Soloff, etc. – to contribute to her later masterpieces, but Toots got there first.

Sorry, NOT Stan Getz…it was Zoot Sims who took the tenor saxophone solos on Eli and the Thirteenth Confession (1968).

Best wishes to Rudy too, of course. I have hundreds of his albums in my jazz collection. He must have been a swell guy in person, because Mingus hated him.

Damn, two names I sadly wasn’t aware I was listening to regularly and loving it until they died. Thanks for letting me put names to the sounds, WordMan, and happy trails to old friends whose names I just learned.

Credits for laura nyro - More than a New Discovery:

Buddy Lucas: Harmonica on “And When I Die”, “Wedding Bell Blues” and “California Shoeshine Boys”
Lou Mauro: Bass
Jimmy Sedlar: Horns
Toots Thielemans: Harmonica on “Billy’s Blues”, “Lazy Susan” and “He’s A Runner”

Not Stoney End though

Sorry, I just listened to Stoney End and there is a harmonica in the beginning. I don’t know who it is.