Belgian jazz musician Toots Thielemans, known as one of the world’s best harmonica players, has passed away at the age of 94 after a long career.
Thielemans — whose real name was Jean-Baptiste Frederic Isidore Thielemans — died in his sleep at a hospital in Brussels early on Monday, said his manager Veerle Van de Poel, reports theguardian.com.
Born in 1922, Thielemans got his big break when he joined the American swing musician Benny Goodman on a European tour in 1950 before moving to the US, where he teamed up with artists such as Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.
He took up the harmonica as a hobby before becoming hooked on to jazz music during World War II. His nickname was taken from the US swing jazz saxophonist Toots Mondello and the composer and trumpeter Toots Camarata.
Buoyed by the commercial success of his jazz standard Bluesette in 1962, he played harmonica on the soundtrack for the film “Midnight Cowboy” in 1969, among other movies.
Thielemans was made a baron by the then king of Belgium, Albert II, in 2001, confirming his status as one of the country’s best-known figures.
His health declined in recent years, but he played at a concert in 2012 to mark his 90th birthday before setting out on a world tour. Thielemans was, however, forced to give up touring in 2014.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel took to Twitter to mourn his death.
“We have lost a great musician, a heartwarming personality. All my thoughts are with the family and friends of Toots Thielemans,” Michel tweeted.