This worthy follow-up to last year’s New York Samba Jazz Quintet is another treat for fans of authentic Brazilian jazz. No less than Meurkens’ 17th CD as a leader reunites him with his core Brazilian rhythm section of pianist Helio Alves, bassist Gustavo Amarante and drummer Adriano Santos, as well as tenor-flutist Jed Levy. Another tenor-flutist, Rodrigo Ursaia, is added to the mix this time. Meurkens, of course, plays the unlikely double of vibes and harmonica, feeling compelled to take up both instruments upon first hearing Lionel Hampton and then later Toots Thielemans.
Meurkens deserves more recognition as a composer. His stimulating “Sambatropolis,” his intricate and intoxicating chorinhos “The Bee” and “Choro da Neve,” his lovely ballads “Ocean Lights” and “A Summer in San Francisco,” and his minor-blues-turned-samba “Hot and Stuffy” are all top-notch creations. Two prime Jobim bossa novas, “Fotografia” and “Você vai Ver,” the standard “You Don’t Know What Love Is” (played straight), and a samba version of “Bernie’s Tune” flesh out the diverse program. The leader shows his usual command on both his instruments. Levy and Ursaia impress on tenor and flute, both individually and in tandem. Alves continues to prove why he’s one of the best pianists in Brazilian jazz. Pianist Ian MacDonald subs effectively on two tunes. The invaluable Amarante and Santos are rock-solid, the vibrant foundation that makes it all work so well.