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Hendrik Meurkens/Bill Cunliffe: Cabin in the Sky (Height Advantage)/ Roger Davidson Quartet feat. Hendrik Meurkens: Music from the Heart (Soundbrush)

Review of two albums featuring multi-instrumentalist Hendrik Meurkens

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Cover of Cabin in the Sky by Hendrik Meurkens and Bill Cunliffe
Cover of Cabin in the Sky by Hendrik Meurkens and Bill Cunliffe

Anyone who follows Hendrik Meurkens on social media is familiar with the New York-based, German-born multi-instrumentalist’s sense of humor, which tends to lean in the direction of tongue-in-cheek. So it’s no big surprise that the three-octave chromatic harmonica player and two-mallet vibraphonist, who calls his label Height Advantage (a joking reference to its owner’s imposing physical stature), would insert a few bars of Deep Purple’s hard-rock anthem “Smoke on the Water” into the intro and ends of choruses on Jobim’s bossa standard “Wave.”

That track—undoubtedly part of Meurkens’ repertoire at least as far back as his extended post-Berklee period in Brazil, during which he soaked up that country’s music, culture, and language—is one of 11 appealingly intimate duo recordings with pianist Bill Cunliffe on Cabin in the Sky. Throughout, Meurkens applies his warm, resonant harmonica tone to standards and other tunes, starting with the title track, begun with a lilting reading of the melody and concluded with an in-synch back-and-forth between the two musicians.

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