Hendrik Meurkens: Live at Bird’s Eye

Hendrik Meurkens is, most certainly, one of the greatest musical adventurers from Europe. The harmonica wunderkind who also happens to be a fine vibraphone player seems to have almost singlehandedly rediscovered Brazil decades after Stan Getz and Joe Henderson did almost five decades ago. In doing so Meurkens along with the grandmaster of the harmonica, Toots Thielemans, has cast a refreshing light on Brazilian music, focussing on the angularity and aching beauty longing of its beloved choro. Not only has he brought a new instrument (the harmonica) to the traditional song form (the choro), he has recast the form in instrumental music by playing his instrument of choice as if he were “singing” the lyric lines of choro. And, as if this were not enough, he has added the vibraphone to choro as well. On this instrument as well he seems to dig into the depth of his soul as he creates dazzling harmonies around the melodies he plays.

Naturally, the breathless excitement of Brazil comes through in every aspect on Meurkens’ fourth Zoho release, Live at Bird’s Eye in Basel, Switzerland. Meurkens may not know it, but he has a penchant for the spectacular. This is evident from his sweeping, almost epic take on João Donato’s “Amazonas.” With his majestic runs and arpeggios on the vibraphone, Meurkens fills the heart and the mind with the breathtaking prospect of the world’s greatest, most mysterious and beautiful jungle. As a result, in one fell swoop he traverses a great landscape by creating an exquisite sound scape, urging his ensemble of pianist Misha Tsiganov, bassist Gustavo Amarante and drummer Adriano Santos to rediscover not just a memorable song, but a wonder of the world. Again, Meurkens pays an unforgettable tribute to Donato—this time on harmonica—in “Minha Saudade.” This is where Meurkens’ vocal side comes to the fore as he soars into the proverbial clouds with his “vocal” gymnastics on the harmonica.

But it is on his own composition—a choro, in fact—where Meurkens ingenuity on the harmonica shines. The composer is absolutely majestic as he is elementally sad and joyful on “Lingua de Mosquito.” Here his “vocalastics” on the harmonica are combined with his sense of aching beauty as he recreates a choro that even without vocals, recalls the great vocal choro of the likes of Nana Caymmi.

And what would a concert by Meurkens be without his classic, “Sambatropolis”? The quartet delivers this with refreshing style and aplomb, so that it sounds different from when Meurkens burst on the scene with it almost a decade ago. Moreover here, as elsewhere on this ever so memorable album, pianist Tsiganov gives a fine account of himself as he negotiates the rhythm of Brazil along with the young masters that Meurkens has brought along to Europe—bassist Gustavo Amarante and drummer Adriano Santos—in what is clearly one of the most exciting albums of 2011.

Track Listing:

1. Amazonas
2. Estate
3. Sambatropolis
4. Dindi
5. Lingua De Mosquito
6. Nôa Nôa
7. Body and Soul
8. Minha Saudade
9. Você Vai Ver.


Hendrik Meurkens: harmonica, vibraphone; Misha Tsiganov: piano; Gustavo Amarante: bass; Adriano Santos: drums, pandeiro (5).

Hendrik Meurkens on the web: www.hendrikmeurkens.com

Raul Da Gama
Raul Da Gama
Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

More from author


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related posts


Featured Posts

Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums: A Film by Soren Sorensen

Anyone approaching this film about the iconic Cuban composer and pianist Omar Sosa, by the award-winning filmmaker Soren Sorensen will be almost immediately struck...

Danilo Pérez featuring The Global Messengers: Crisálida

Danilo Pérez began forming his worldview - and aligning his music to it - ever since he came under the sphere of influence of...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part II)

Miguelo Valdés & The New Messengers Of Feeling Miguel Valdés, or “Miguelo”, as he has since become known, was born in the province of La...

The Feeling Messengers, Past and Present (Part I)

Preamble Within the current renaissance of popular Cuban music, coupled with the seemingly eternal presence of its first cousin American Jazz, we are once again...

In Conversation with Carlos Cippelletti

Pianist, composer and arranger Carlos Cippelletti, is a promising young Spanish, Franco-Cuban artist from the last generation of Afro-Cuban jazz musicians born outside the...

Celebrating Jane Bunnett: Spirits of Havana’s 30th Anniversary

After dark they gather, the spirits of Havana. Is that a ghostly, but fatback-toned rapping down in the barrio where the great composer and...

Piazzolla Cien Años: Lord of the Tango@100

There is a now famous photograph of the great Ástor Piazzolla that is iconic for so many reasons. Chief among them is the manner...

Omara Portuondo, Multifaceted Gem of Cuban Music

My moon app announces that in 14 hours the Supermoon of May will be here. During a full moon I often get inspired to...

Ray Barretto · Barretto Power

Barretto Power: A Celebratory Reissue on its 50th Anniversary It was 1970 when Fania Records released Barretto Power, one of a series of seminal albums...

El Gran Fellové: Part 3- When my Parents…

When my parents bought their home in 1968, Sunset Beach was just another sleepy little beach town It spanned about one mile in length, sandwiched...

Join our mailing list

Participate in contests, giveaways and more