It is perhaps inevitable that people should start hailing Hendrik Meurkens as the new Toots Thielemans. Meurkens plays jazz harmonica, as did Thielemans, and there are not too many other people doing that.
But apart from this and similarities in technique, their musical approach is very different. Thielemans was a very warm, expressive player. He liked to let it all hang out. Meurkens is far more careful. He sticks to the melody and tried and tested progressions, only rarely straying into uncharted territory.
On this album with pianist Bill Cunliffe he creates a series of perfectly executed, delicate vignettes, never letting rip or exhibiting the least trace of excitement. This is not the fault of the material chosen. In addition to two of his own compositions and two by Cunliffe, Meurkens tackles pieces by Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul andbelieve it or notcountry singer Bobbie Gentry: her marvellous 1967 hit single "Ode To Billie Joe."
It's a relaxed, enjoyable program. "I love a good song," says German-born Meurkens. "I am not so much interested in breaking the latest barrier and pushing the jazz envelope but I am interested in playing beautiful music that warms the heart."
Fair enough. To this end he has included Tom Jobim's lovely, lyrical "Wave" from his 1967 album of the same name, named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 greatest Brazilian records of all time.
Cunliffe's piano accompaniments are as well crafted as you would expect them to be by this Grammy winning arranger.
No surprises then, just beautiful music, like the man said..
Cabin In The Sky; Afternoon; Miyako; Young And Fine; You Don't Know; Invitation;
Time To Say Goodbye; Ode To Billie Joe; Prague In March; Speak Low; Wave.
Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica; Bill Cunliffe: piano.
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