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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Live at Bird's Eye

Zoho ZM 201114



1. Amazonas
2. Estate
3. Sambatropolis
4. Dindi
5. Lingua de Mosquito
6. Noa Noa
7. Body and Soul
8. Minha Saudade
9. Voce Vai Ver

Hendrik Meurkens - Harmonica, vibes
Misha Tsiganov - Piano
Gustavo Amarante - Bass
Adriano Santos - Drums, pandeiro


Like Toots Thielemans, Hendrik Meurkens has two strings to his bow, one of them being the harmonica. Unlike Toots, his other instrument is the vibraphone, and we hear much of Hendrik's expertise on both instruments in this splendid album. Recorded at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club in Basel, Switzerland, the CD presents his quartet in sessions with a strong Latin-American flavour.

The mood is set right from the start with the cheerful Amazonas, a spirited samba featuring Meurkens on vibes. One is immediately struck by the firm forward-thrusting beat supplied by bassist Gustavo Amarante and drummer Adriano Santos. Both men come from Brazil, so perhaps it is no surprise that they can push the beat so effectively. Equally notable is Russian pianist Misha Tsiganov, who has a delightfully scintillating style, particularly evident in his delicate solo on Estate, which has Hendrik on harmonica. This lovely ballad fades away magically at the end.

It's back to the vibes for Hendrik in the rocky samba Sambatropolis, a forceful Meurkens original. I suspect that Hendrik is an old-fashioned vibist who uses only two mallets to achieve maximum swing - and it works. Here and elsewhere, the quartet works like a well-oiled machine, although there is nothing mechanical about their playing.

Dindi is treated tenderly, with Meurkens' harmonica reminding one of Toots Thielemans at his most rhapsodic. Lingua de Mosquito is another Meurkens original which ends with a salute to Antonio Carlos Jobm in the form of an unexpected quote from Waters of March. Noa Noa is another go-ey samba.

You might not expect Body and Soul among all this Latin-Americana but Hendrik handles it with loving care on vibes, and Tsiganov's piano solo twinkles with lyricism. Hendrik returns to the harmonica for the familiar Minha Saudade, where the rhythm cooks as warmly as on other tracks. We end with Jobim: his Voce Vai Ver, which gives Gustavo Amarante his first bass solo.

In all, a most pleasurable disc - enjoyed by the (discreet) audience as much as by this listener.

Tony Augarde

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