New York Samba Jazz Quintet
On jazz harmonica there’s Toots Thielemans, but then who? Hendrik Meurkens, of course, and for those who don’t know him, when you hear his extended solo on Djavan’s “Flor de Lis” on this CD, you will be hooked. Displaying flawless technique, high creativity and warm expressiveness, Meurkens is a master of the instrument. As if that isn’t enough, his playing here on vibes (his first instrument before hearing Thielemans at age 19) is nearly as good, agile and rich in tone.
Recorded live at Cecil’s Jazz Club near his New Jersey home, Meurkens’ quintet explores various sambas, choros and bossa novas. After leaving Germany, Meurkens immersed himself in Brazilian music during a visit there in the early ’80s, and has recorded this music frequently and authentically ever since, but never better than here.
His outstanding quintet features Jed Levy on tenor and flute, pianist Helio Alves, bassist Gustavo Amarante and drummer Adriano Santos—the latter three all originally from Brazil. Levy’s full-bodied, captivating tenor work and Alves’ propulsive, animated piano are key elements to these exciting performances.
The repertoire includes two memorable João Donato compositions, “Vamos Nessa” and “A Rã,” as well as Jobim’s “Triste” and “I Can’t Get Started” (as a bossa nova). Meurkens’ two previously recorded and appealing choros, “Mimosa” and “Menina na Janela,” receive new treatments. One of Meurkens’ “main tunes,” often requested, is the beautiful “Prague in March,” which features Meurkens’ harmonica and Levy’s tenor at their collaborative best. The moving “Bolero Para Paquito” is Meurkens’ original written for Paquito D’Rivera and recorded before by both artists. This is Brazilian jazz at its finest.