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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove

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Samba To Go!

Zoho ZM 200901



1. Spaceburger
2. Odessa In April
3. Samba To Go!
4. So Tinha De Ser Com Voce
5. Choro No.14
6. Mountain Drive
7. Joe's Donut
8. Bossa Sketch
9. A Choro For You
10. My Foolish Heart

Hendrik Meurkens - Harmonica, vibes
Rodrigo Ursaia - Tenor sax, soprano sax, flute, alto flute
Misha Tsiganov - Piano, Fender Rhodes
Gustavo Aramante - Bass
Adriano Santos - Drums, pandeiro, percussion
Ze Mauricio - Congas, pandeiro, percussion (tracks 3, 7, 9)
Luiz Simas - Piano (track 9)

In some ways, Hendrik Meurkens resembles Toots Thielemans. They are both virtuosi on the harmonica - an instrument rare in jazz. And Meurkens' sound is often very similar to Thielemans'. In fact Meurkens was inspired to take up the harmonica when he heard Thielemans. However, while Toots doubles on guitar, Hendrik's other instrument is the vibraphone. And he contributes to this attractive album equally well on both instruments.

I have said before that a whole album of bossa novas can become samey - and this danger might apply to an album of sambas. Yet Hendrik varies the tempos and moods so well that the CD never seems repetitive. Meurkens wrote seven of the ten tunes himself, - the others being Jobim's So Tinha De Ser Com Voce, Luiz Simas's A Choro For You and the jazz standard My Foolish Heart.

Meurkens obviously has sensitivity for the samba and bossa nova, having spent some time in Brazil in the early 1980s, and that feeling comes across clearly in his writing. He actually writes melodies which are instantly appealing and which provide amenable material for his group's improvisation. This includes some excellent solos from saxist/flautist Rodrigo Ursala and keyboardist Misha Tsiganov.

Every track is enjoyable but I particularly liked the opening Spaceburger, with its melody stated on flute and decorated by Hendrik's simple but effective vibes-playing. Meurkens is a straightforward vibist - without any showy technique - but someone who allows the instrument its natural vibrato, generating a gratifying bell-like sound. Other highlights include the bustling title-track, with Hendrik's harmonica weaving around vertiginously; the two cheerful experiments with the choro form (tracks 5 and 9); and the snaking rhythm of Joe's Donut, where Ze Mauricio's extra percussion adds to the rhythmic interplay, The album ends with My Foolish Heart - not performed as a samba but as a ballad featuring the harmonica, although it turns into a bossa nova halfway through.

My only slight grouse is that the drummer barely creates enough Latin-American rhythm with his tentative rim clicks on such tracks as Odessa in April. But otherwise there's nothing to complain about here - and much to enjoy.

Tony Augarde




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