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Hendrik Meurkens/Misha Tsiganov: Junity

Dan Bilawsky By

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Junity? No, that's not a misprint. Take "junto," the Brazilian word for together, and marry it with "unity"; that's how you get "junity," a hybridized term that accurately describes the relationship between harmonica master Hendrik Meurkens and pianist Misha Tsiganov.

These two men have been playing together for nearly a decade, appearing together on stages across the world and pleasing Meurkens albums like Samba To Go! (Zoho Music, 2009) and Celebrando (Zoho Music, 2012). Junity, a program containing seven harmonica-piano duo tracks and six quartet performances, highlights their simpatico relationship. This record is the first to focus in on the Meurkens-Tsiganov partnership, but it's not the first time these men have worked as a twosome. Over the years they've done a few duo tours in Russia, and the warm reception they received on those occasions likely contributed to the decision to make this type of record.

Both men seem to have eclectic taste(s), demonstrated in the song selections on this album. A pair of Lennon/McCartney classics ("Blackbird" and "Norwegian Wood"), a few jazz standards (Thelonious Monk's "Ruby, My Dear," Wes Montgomery's "West Coast Blues," and Sonny Rollins "Pent-Up House"), some Tsiganov-initiated nods to Russia ("Scriabin," "Etude Op. 2, No. 1" and "Lady Bear's Lullabye"), and Brazilian-based music all have a place at the table. And despite differences in origin, all of the material is tied together neatly.

Within the quartet program there are songs that fully integrate the four men—Meurkens, Tsiganov, bassist Oleg Osenkov and drummer Willard Dyson—and there are songs that still tend to zone in on the co-leaders, with Dyson and Osenkov gently coloring around them; "West Coast Blues" and "Pent-Up House" belong to the former category while "Close Enough For Love" belongs to the latter. The majority of the duo material is extremely lyrical, projecting a sense of longing. A notable exception is "Menina Na Janela," a sprightly Meurkens-penned choro that's all sunshine and cheer. Regardless of the mood, Junity does what it sets out do: it shines a light on the beautifully collaborative nature of the Meurkens-Tsiganov partnership. It's a match made in heaven.

Track Listing: Blackbird; Luiza; Lady Bear's Lullabye; Junity; Norwegian Wood; Olena; Pent Up House; Ruby, My Dear; Menina Na Janela; West Coast Blues; Scriabin; Close Enough For Love; Etude Op. 2, No. 1.

Personnel: Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica; Misha Tsiganov: piano; Oleg Osenkov: bass (1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12); Willard Dyson: drums (1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 12).

Title: Junity | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Hms

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