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Album Review

On Sambatropolis Hendrik Meurkens continues to offer the stellar fusion of chorinho and jazz that has marked his musical output over the past 17 years. Accompanied by a strong Brazilian rhythm section, Meurkens' dual talents on harmonica and vibes are showcased on 11 exceptional compositions ranging from ballads to blues, bossas to lively chorinhos. The energized title track, which was inspired by renowned Brazilian composer João Donato, opens the set and immediately captivates. The band works within the exuberant chorinho form on two songs — "The Bee" and "Choro da Neve" — offering challenging unison lines over intricate chord changes. This song is a prime example of Meurkens' vibrant harmonica chops. Two beautiful melodic ballads provide a stunning vehicle for his seductive approach. On "Ocean Lights," head flautist Rodrigo Ursaia sets the tone for Meurkens to work his appealing sound, which truly reflects the romanticism inherent in his playing. On the jazz standard, "You Don't Know What Love Is" Jed Levy's resonant saxophone takes the melody while Meurkens adds beautiful stylistic inflections and note ornaments on the vibes. Everything works on this song and the listener is left feeling the heartfelt emotions of the players. The recording closes with a burning Brazilian flavored rendition of "Bernie's Tune." The ensemble delivers on all levels with exemplary soloing, stylistic inflection and improvisation. Their ideas have meaning and the swinging jazz style they fuse with Brazilian rhythms creates a mature jazz sound. Overall, the entire recording exceeds the musical brilliance Meurkens set forth on New York Samba Jazz Quintet. It is a solid Brazilian groove that shines with Meurkens' agile vibraphone lines, chromatic harmonica, and well-executed compositions. Highly recommended.


Born: 1957 in Hamburg, Germany

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Ever since he started taking harmonica solos in the mid-'50s, Toots Thielemans has been without any close competition on his instrument, at least until Hendrik Meurkens arrived on the scene. Born in Germany to Dutch parents, Meurkens began as a vibraphonist, not playing harmonica until he heard Thielemans when he was 19. He traveled to the U.S. to study at Berklee and spent time in Brazil in the early '80s, during which he immersed himself in Brazilian jazz. Back in Berlin, Meurkens worked in the...
Full Bio
Sambatropolis, Hendrik Meurkens
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