1. La Esperanza
2. Slow Breeze
3. Frenzelosa (Choro No. 2)
4. Odessa in April
5. Pa Rio
6. Out of Reach
7. La Puerta
8. She Lives in Brazil
9. Maya Roots
10. Mountain Drive
Hendrik Meurkens - Harmonica
Gabriel Espinosa - Bass, vocals
Anat Cohen - Clarinet, tenor sax (tracks 3, 5, 6, 9)
Jim Seeley - Trumpet, flugelhorn
Alison Wedding - Vocals
Molly Blythe - Background vocals (tracks 5, 7,11)
Misha Tsiganov - Piano, Fender Rhodes
Antonio Sanchez - Drums (tracks 2, 3, 5-7. 9)
Mauricio Zottarelli - Drums (tracks 1, 4, 8, 10, 11), percussion
The harmonica seems a humble little instrument but in the right hands it can make beautiful music. Exponents from Larry Adler via Stevie Wonder to Toots Thielemans have shown that the harmonica is capable of a wide range of expression.
Hendrik Meurkens is a man who can make the harmonica sing, as he shows right from the start of this album with La Esperanza, a catchy Latin-American piece with wordless vocals by Alison Wedding. Misha Tsiganov's keyboards add to the hypnotic effect of the tune. The album is called Celebrando, which is Portuguese for "celebrating" and the whole album celebrates Brazilian music, which enchanted Hendrik Meurkens so much that he lived in Rio de Janeiro in the 1980s to soak up the sounds.
He soaked up so much that he was able to compose four of the numbers on this CD, including Slow Breeze which feels like a bossa nova, the chirpy Frenzelosa and the bouncy Mountain Drive. The overall atmosphere of the album is laid-back, with a number of different instruments creating a variety of sounds. For example, Anat Cohen's clarinet leads the way gently in Pa Rio (one of four tunes here by Gabriel Espinosa) while she solos prominently on tenor sax in Out of Reach. Espinosa sings evocatively on several tracks as well as providing a mobile bass line. One of my favourite tracks is the lively She Lives in Brazil, which has stimulating drums from Antonio Sanchez topped by wordless vocals from Alison Wedding. And Hendrik Meurkens' harmonica is always hovering around, adding to the rich panoply of sounds. The closing title-track (composed by Espinosa) is one of those tunes that sounds familiar and is therefore very accessible.
The recording captures faithfully the optimistic spirit of the music. This is Zoho's 100th album release and its mixture of German-born Meurkens with the Mexicans Espinosa and Sanchez, Brazilian Zottarelli, Russian Tsiganov and Israeli Cohen typifies the eclectic range of music that the label has issued. The only down side is the rather frighteningly garish front cover.