Classy Jazz Samba
German-born Hendrik Meurkens has had an on-going relationship with Brazilian music for a long time. Though based in New York, Meurkens has also lived in Brazil in the early 1980’s. In his very first album, Samba Importado (1990), among the several Brazilian giants lending a hand were Roberto Menescal (acoustic guitar), Leandro Braga (piano), Marcos Suzano (percussion) and Joel Nascimento (bandolim). Following Samba Importado, Sambahia (1991) featured Claudio Roditi (trumpet, flugelhorn), who also performed in Clear of Clouds (1992) along with Pascoal Meirelles (drums). October Colors (1995) was the debut of the Samba Jazz Quartet, which featured Hélio Alves on piano.Then in 1996, Poema Brasileiro brought back a heavy presence of Brazilian stars, including Ivan Lins (voice), Téo Lima (drums), Romero Lubambo (guitars, cavaquinho), Claudio Roditi (flugelhorn), Vanderlei Pereira (drums) and Rogério Botter Maio (bass) playing side by side with other top-notch Brazilian jazz musicians, such as Laura Dreyer (flute, sax) and Steve Sacks (flute, sax). In all of these as well as subsequent albums, the Brazilian presence is marked both with excellent performers and a solid repertoire. Now, with his 17th release, New York Samba Jazz Quintet, Meurkens expands on the original Samba Jazz Quartet.
The Samba Jazz Quintet is Hendrik Meurkens (harmonica, vibes), Jed Levy (tenor sax, flute), Hélio Alves (piano), Gustavo Amarante (bass) and Adriano Santos (drums). Produced by Meurkens himself and recorded live at Cecil’s Jazz Club in New Jersey, New York Samba Jazz Quintet brings four original Meurkens pieces along with Brazilian classics by Jobim, Donato, Djavan and even a Gershwin composition.
Both “Vamos Nessa” and “A Rã” carry that contagious Donato rhythm that fans adore. With Alves’s flying piano solo and Meurkens’s quick hands on vibes, those tracks can leave one breathless with their fast and vibrant tempo. Adding to it all, Santos’s drums put more spice in those exciting arrangements. For Djavan’s classic “Flor de Lis,” Meurkens easily convinces us why he is one of the best harmonica jazz players in recent times. If you have ever doubted that Gershwin had a lost Brazilian gene, with “I Can’t Get Started,” your suspicions will be gone. Once again Meurkens uses his harmonica in a fine arrangement. The tenor sax solo in this track is also full of swing.
The four original Meurkens’s compositions featured in New York Samba Jazz Quintet offer a nice balance of samba jazz with plenty of room for all musicians to let loose and enjoy themselves. “Prague in March” has a certain Ivan Lins-esque feel to it. “Mimosa” and “Menina na Janela” are great sambas, and in “Bolero Para Paquito” the soft samba ballad steals your heart away.
Finally, closing a terrific repertoire, what could be better than Jobim’s “Triste”? Meurkens’s vibes and Alves’s piano solos are jaw-dropping and allow listeners one more chance to enjoy yet another excellent rendition of this famous classic. Clearly this quintet has Brazilian music in their veins and hearts. New York Samba Jazz Quintet brings a taste of Brazil right into your living room.
New York Samba Jazz Quintet
Zoho ZM200701 (2007)
Total time: 51’29”
- Vamos Nessa (João Donato)
- Flor De Lis (Djavan)
- A Rã (João Donato)
- Prague In March (Hendrik Meurkens)
- Mimosa (Hendrik Meurkens)
- I Can’t Get Started (Vernon Duke – Ira Gershwin)
- Menina na Janela (Hendrik Meurkens)
- Bolero Para Paquito (Hendrik Meurkens)
- Triste (Antônio Carlos Jobim)