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Hendrik Meurkens: Live at Bird's Eye

Chris M. Slawecki By

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Live at Bird's Eye embodies the truly global nature of modern jazz: Meurkens' fourth ZOHO release was recorded at two concerts performed at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club in Basel (Switzerland) by his Salsamba Latin Jazz Group, which features this German-born vibes and harmonica player with Russian pianist Misha Tsiganov and the rhythm section of bassist Gustavo Amarante and drummer Adriano Santos, who demonstrate a deep intellectual and emotional familiarity with sambas and other forms from their native Brazil.

Tsiganov's solo acoustic piano introduction to "Dindi" reflects all the charm and beauty of one of Antonio Carlos Jobim's most lovely tunes. He steps back to serve as accompanist for Meurkens' harmonica, which makes the melody sound even lovelier—a little sad, a little happy, a little bright and a little blue. The Quartet's elegant dance with "Voce Vai Ver," another Jobim gem, closes this set.

Quite often, the crystalline sound and feel of Meurkens' vibes surrounded by the Quartet's supple but deceptively powerful Brazilian rhythms create magical musical alchemy. Their sound on the timeless "Body and Soul" suggests the ice cold bluesy funk of Milt Jackson, especially when he begins to swirl the familiar melody into ripples of blue sound that Tsiganov's shimmering accompaniment delicately reflects. His vibes pour out of Sergio Mendes' "Noa Noa" like a musical waterfall that just won't stop flowing, and Tsiganov's piano does too, while Amarante and Santos churn the rhythm into foam and froth.

But even among such famous tunes by Jobim, Mendes, Joao Dinato and Joao Gilberto ("Minha Saudade"), Meurkens' original "Sambatroplis" delivers the highlight of this set. In "Sambatropolis," Amarante and Santos fuse classical and contemporary Brazil in lively polyrhythms, Tsiganov grafts in Russian fire and passion, and the leader's vibes dance on top with a ringing sound as warm and happy as a joyous Snoopy frolicking atop Schroeder's piano in a Peanuts comic strip.

Track Listing: Amazonas; Estate; Sambatropolis; Dindi; Lingua de Mosquito; Noa Noa; Body and Soul; Minha Saudade; Voce Vai Ver.

Personnel: Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica, vibraphone; Misha Tsiganov: piano; Gustavo Amarante: bass; Adriano Santos: drums, pandeiro.

Title: Live at Bird's Eye | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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