This recording was no casual venture for Toots Thielemans. He surrounded himself with musicians with whom he had been working regularly and in who he had complete confidence. Fred Hersch, who had been close to Toots musically for six years, took on multiple roles as pianist, producer and arranger. Fred had been with Toots on all his American gigs for five years and they had played together in Europe and in Brazil. For Toots, the key to their affinity was the music of the late Bill Evans.
"I respond to Bill Evans' melodic and harmonic climate," Toots explained. "Fred grew up on the music of Bill Evans and when we're playing together we have a telepathy, a dialogue between soloist and accompanist. He allows me to hold a wrong note and he will know how to handle it."
Toots' Bill Evans association extended to bassist Marc Johnson, who was in Evans' group at the time of his death. Johnson and drummer Joey Baron had been playing regularly with Toots for four years. (Harvie Swartz, who had long associations with Sheila Jordan and Steve Kuhn, subbed for Johnson on some of these sessions).
One of Hersch's key objectives, in his role as producer, as freshness of performance. So, in most cases, these are first takes. "After several takes on the same tune, you tend to be trying too hard," Hersch pointed out. "On the first take, when Toots is finding his way, he is apt to be more spontaneous."
The goal of all this was, as Toots said, to make a recording "that comes out as a good musical photograph of me today -- both artistically and what I stand for lyrically."