The soulful feeling that Hendrik Meurkens puts into his jazz harmonica always brings warmth and sunshine into the room. Here, he's at home with a quintet at Cecil's Jazz Club in West Orange, New Jersey, just having a good time and keeping the fires burning all night long. His embers burn from several directions: from Brazilian traditional and New York contemporary to straight-ahead jazz.
Meurkens plays both harmonica and vibraphone for this session. The samba beat that remains woven through the band's texture provides plenty of drive. The session has sparks that recall the mesmerizing Brazilian quality of Tania Maria in performance. Vibes and piano, in particular, give off a fiery glow that sends a strong message.
Jed Levy gives the session a fluid texture. His tenor links up seamlessly with harmonica and vibraphone to help interpret this program of Meurkens originals and familiar songs that sparkle. Unlike some musical instruments, the harmonica and vibraphone avoid staccato attacks and crisp cascades. Rather, both instruments prove conducive for legato strolls and velvety swirls. Tones overlap and phrases move eloquently like river water around boulders or trees. The ripples multiply as Levy joins Meurkens in his lyrical adventures.
The quintet is equally effective on romantic boleros and ballads as it is on up-tempo romps. Four originals by Meurkens provide plenty of spirit. Every track is a winner, though, as the vibraphonist and harp master steers his stellar quintet through this program of Brazilian delights.