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Gabriel Espinosa/Hendrik Meurkens: Samba Little Samba

Edward Blanco By

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Mexican-born bassist Gabriel Espinosa and German-born harmonica specialist Hendrik Meurkens—though coming from vastly different backgrounds—have always had a common passion for the bossa nova and the samba. Continuing their successful collaboration of the past, the two co-leaders join forces once again for another Brazilian musical dance on Samba Little Samba and follow up to their highly-acclaimed Celebrando (ZOHO, 2012), their very first outing. The duo present an offering of nine originals (four each) plus one from pianist Misha Tsiganov who was also a part of the first recording, and round off the repertoire with the standard "Besame Mucho" from Mexican-born composer Consuelo Velazquez.

In bringing this second effort together, the leaders carefully assemble an A-list group of players that include among them, drummers and percussionist Antonio Sanchez and Adriano Santos, clarinetist and saxophonist Anat Cohen and featuring vocalist Tierney Sutton as guest on one track. The music kicks off with the title track which just happens to be an English-lyrics version of the Meurkens instrumental standard "Sambatropolis" featuring Alison Wedding and Espinosa on vocals. The tenor saxophone of Cohen, Meurkens harmonica and Wedding's vocals—all come together on the sparkling "A Night in Jakarta," one of the standout tunes of the album.

The bassist and special guest Sutton voice an especially tender rendition of the Mexican classic "Besame Mucho" accompanied by guitarist Serge Merlaud and Meurkens' own warm harmonica sound making this standard the soft spot of the disc. Next up, is the splashy and the perky "Choro Da Neve" showcasing Cohen's clarinet voice followed by the beautiful balladic "Fe," a bolero penned by Espinosa for his daughter's wedding where the pianist delivers delicate lines in a meaningful piece for the bassist as it served as the father/daughter song at the reception.

Contributing one new original composition to the project, pianist Tsiganov includes the light samba-styled "Give Me Five" featuring drummer Santos, Cohen once again on the tenor and both Wedding and the bassist on vocals giving this tune a five star rating. The samba winds down on the last two Espinosa originals of which "Encuentro Maya," is perhaps the defining piece of the recording with an expressive flair, a swinging samba beat and a wonderful melodic charm. It had to be since it was inspired by the co-leaders first-time meeting and performing together in 2011 and the rest is history.

Hendrik Meurkens has been one of the foremost proponents of the Brazilian genre for decades now while, Gabriel Espinosa continues his love affair with the samba sounds he was first exposed to back in the early 60s. Let's hope these two giants of the music continue their incredible collaboration, interpreting, producing and developing new approaches to this wonderful style of Latin music we call the samba. Another winning touch for these two masters, Samba Little Samba serves up another delicious taste of the Brazilian-style with a good measure of swing, song and much, much more than a little samba.

Track Listing: Samba Little Samba; A Song For Ray; A Night In Jakarta; Besame Mucho; Choro Da Neve; Fe; Give Me Five; Ocean Lights; Encuentro Maya; Euro 12.

Personnel: Gabriel Espinosa: bass, vocals; Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica, vibraphone, Anat Cohen: clarinet (2, 5), tenor saxophone (3, 7); Alison Wedding; vocals (1-3, 6-8); Tierney Sutton: vocals (4); Misha Tsiganov: piano, Fender Rhodes; Antonio Sanchez: drums (2, 4, 6, 8, 10); Adriano Santos: drums (1, 3, 5, 7, 9), percussion; Serge Merlaud: guitar (4).

Title: Samba Little Samba | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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