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December 2000

Nilson Matta/Hendrik Meurkins
Encontros (Meetings)
Malandro Records

I have to fess up: Until hearing this disc, I was unfamiliar with the work of German harmonica wunderkind-at age 40+!-Hendrik Meurkens. Well, now I want to hear more of his explorations into the world of Brazilian music. Trekking through this landscape in the enormous footsteps of his harp guru, Toots Thielmans, is quite an undertaking, but Meurkens pulls it off admirably.

On this often-boiling new outing, he is anchored, and obviously coaxed into new territory, by his session co-leader, Brazilian bassist Nilson Matta, best known for his work with Don Pullen, Gato Barbieri and his own New York based Trio da Paz, whose other members, Duduka da Fonseca and Romero Lubambo, add delightful support on drums and guitars, respectively. Matta, with just the right bass underpinnings and punctuations, and Meurkens' mostly meaty, low register chromatic harmonica textures each create effective anchors to the recording's wonderfully airy and lilting bossa, samba and choro rhythms.

Highlights include Matta's tribute to Baden Powell, "Baden," where his bass does proper justice to that masterful guitarist, and Meurkens' "Chorinho No. 2," a peppy true-to-form choro, the improvisatory music, some say a jazz analog, Brazil generated in the early 1900s.

All in all, a satisfying voyage and a successful encounter. Let's hope they meet again.

Originally published in December 2000
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