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Hendrik Meurkens: The Jazz Meurkengers

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Hendrik Meurkens: The Jazz Meurkengers
Harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens brought together an outstanding group of musicians in The Jazz Meurkengers, which is a swinging tribute to the allure of hard-bop jazz. Supported by the resourceful and highly adaptable rhythm section of pianist Steve Ash, bassist Chris Berger and drummer Andy Watson, the band was augmented by the impeccable guitarist Ed Cherry on four tracks and bebop tenor saxophonist Nick Hampton on four different tracks giving the ensemble the energy, creativity, and reverence of the jazz tradition.

The nine-track session opens with a Meurkens original, "A Slow One," with a bubbling tone and slicing swing. Meurkens, Cherry and Ash are leading the way, each focusing equally on melody and texture as they interrogate the music. "Belgian Beer At Dawn" is another Meurkens number and contrafact based on the chord changes on "Stella By Starlight." It is a spirited chart, with Meurkens offering a juicy and distinct solo while Hampton's tenor has a rich tone in his unhurried playing. Watson makes his drums musically expressive in his exchanges with Meurkens and Hampton.

Horace Silver's composition "Silver's Serenade" comes from the 1963 Blue Note recording of the same name. It is one of Silver's most recognizable pieces, with an artful balance of mood and structure. Meurkens, Cherry and Ash use authoritative solos filled with long, seamless phrases conveying knowledge of harmony and form. Peter Gunn was a 1950s TV detective series in which jazz was noteworthy. The Henry Mancini composition "Dreamsville" was the background music to the romantic sequences. Meurkens, Cherry, and Ash are again front and center, with solos unsurpassed in clarity and elegance. In all the charts in which Cherry participated, his guitar work has been fluid and expressive, and his solos brimming with soul and sophistication.

"If I Were A Bell" was composed by Frank Loesser for the 1950 musical "Guys and Dolls." It became a jazz standard after it was recorded by trumpeter Miles Davis on the 1958 Prestige album Relaxin' with The Miles Davis Quintet. Meurkens' arrangement has a powerful sense of swing with an energetic solo from Hampton. Ash's up-tempo excursion shows he is a pianist who relishes logic and discovery.

Toots Thielemans was a Belgian-born musician who made his mark on jazz history with the playing of the chromatic harmonica. Acknowledging his inspiration from his playing, Meurkens wrote a ballad, " A Tear For Toots." for Thielemans's centennial year in 2022. Meurkens' reading is heartfelt and filled with delicate lyricism. Both Cherry and Ash are emotionally lucid and sure-footed. In summary, Meurkens and his ensemble have crafted a tasteful and inventive release.

Track Listing

A Slow One; Belgian Beer At Dawn; A Lullaby For Benny; Silver's Serenade; Meurks' Mood; Dreamsville; If I Were A Bell; A Tear For Toots; Smada.

Personnel

Ed Cherry
guitar
Nick Hampton
saxophone, tenor
Steve Ash
piano

Album information

Title: The Jazz Meurkengers | Year Released: 2024 | Record Label: Cellar Music Group


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