Toots Thielemans’ international network mapped out

Benny Goodman/Toots Thielemans, 1948 © Metronome, via Getty Images

Jazz musician and composer Toots Thielemans (1922–2016) collaborated with a unique number of musicians, mostly international artists.

He began as an accordionist and guitarist, but broke through with the harmonica. He composed music for films such as ‘Midnight Cowboy’ and ‘Turkish Delight’ and for TV series such as ‘Witse’ and ‘Baantjer’. His performance at Jazz Middelheim was an annual classic.

During his career, Thielemans collaborated mainly with international musicians. Flanders Arts Institute’s Tom Ruette has mapped out this network – accompanying text in Dutch. Several elements stand out:

  • Of the (rather limited group of) Belgian musicians with whom Toots made recordings, it appears clearly that they often serve to build bridges internationally; Bruno Castellucci, Michel Herr, Michel Hatzigeorgiou and Nathalie Loriers make the connection between Toots and other groups.
  • Distinct groups stand out, which most likely are closely related to the records involving collaboration. Nevertheless, there is a strong cohesion among the groups thanks to a number of connecting figures.
  • Thielemans is a Belgian musician, with a not-to-be-underestimated network of other Belgian musicians, but most of his collaborations (which resulted in an album) were with foreigners.

Thielemans is one of the few Belgian musicians to be known around the world. His composition ‘Bluesette’ is a jazz classic. Thielemans played with the greatest jazz musicians, such as Miles Davis, Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Billy Joel.

You will find a complete discography of Toots Thielemans on


Flanders Arts Institute