Heitor Villa-Lobos was one of a number of eminent composers attracted to writing for the harmonica and his Concerto explores the instrument’s abilities perfectly. The first movement is highly melodic while the harmonica’s singing qualities are to be found in the plaintively haunting lyricism of the slow movement. The finale embodies festive romance and great virtuosity, capping one of the most exciting works in the repertoire. The sequence of arrangements and orchestrations of some of Villa-Lobos’s most beautiful, moving and famous melodies includes the masterpiece Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5.
Although he plays guitar exclusively on two of the eight selections included on this CD reissue, it is Toots Thielemans' harmonica playing that is most unique. He holds his own on a hard bop blowing date with baritonist Pepper Adams, pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Art Taylor, jamming on such songs as "East of the Sun," "Struttin' with Some Barbeque" and "Isn't It Romantic." Even four decades later, no jazz harmonica player has dethroned the great Toots.
Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidor, Baron Thielemans (29 April 1922 – 22 August 2016), known professionally as Toots Thielemans, was a Belgian-American jazz musician. He was known for his harmonica playing, as well as his guitar, whistling skills, and composing. According to jazz historian Ted Gioia, his most important contribution was in "championing the humble harmonica", which Thielemans made into a "legitimate voice in jazz". He eventually became the "preeminent" jazz harmonica player.