Blue Toucan Music is proud to announce the release of acclaimed harmonica master Hendrik Meurkens' new album of Brazilian classics new and old with Amazon River
(release date: August 23). Featuring special guest/legends Dori Caymmi, Paquito D'Rivera and Oscar Castro-Neves, Amazon River
also includes an extended, rotating ensemble that explores classics by Jobim, Caymmi and Toninho Horta as well as four engaging originals by Meurkens.
Critics and fans alike have celebrated the new jazz harmonica voice" of Hendrik Meurkens, a voice that has become synonymous with the related genres of sambajazz and sambafunk. Recording and touring with a who's who of jazz stars, including Herb Ellis, Lionel Hampton and Phil Woods, Meurkens has gone on to win the hearts and minds of Latin music lovers as well, working with such big names as Ivan Lins, Charlie Byrd, Herbie Mann and Manfredo Fest.
Born in Germany, Meurkens graduated from Berklee College of Music, lived in Brazil during the early '80s, eventually moved to New York in 1992, where he quickly established himself as the important counterpart to Toots Thielemans. A virtuoso vibes player and a successful composer, he's been invited to many of the major jazz festivals, is a regular in New York jazz clubs and has recorded 11 CDs as a leader.
Produced by Meurkens and Castro-Neves, Amazon River's 11 cuts provide the listener with irresistible musical trips in a variety of settings. Highlights include Caymmi's haunting vocals on his O Cantador" and Amazon River," D'Rivera's sprightly clarinet work on Meurkens' The Peach" and Lingua de Mosquito" (spiced up in the Chorinho style) and Castro-Neves' guitar and vocals on Antonio Carlos Jobim's imagistic Ela e Carioca" and Sem Voce." Also on board is Meurkens' longtime pianist Helio Alves along with bassist Nilson Matta, percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca, among many others.
According to Meurkens, the music of Brazil is perfect for his main instrument. As I get older and more mature," he says, I appreciate the songs and beauty of the music, not needing the long solos I associate with jazz. If you look at Toots back in the '50s, he had all these long-blowing albums, but later on he gets to the beauty of the song. It is tied in with my whole approach to music, the music of Brazil in particular, where I found a bed, a cushion, that is right for the harmonica. I had to find that out the hard way-through many bebop jam sessions."
Speaking of bebop, Meurkens adds, Those three tunes in the Chorinho style - 'Menina na Janela,' 'Lingua de Mosquito' and 'The Peach' - are extremely demanding of the soloist, like playing Bach. Like me, Paquito also has a love for Chorinho, and he was a natural choice to be on this project. That style is very popular among musicians. It is like Bach and Charlie Parker, playing over difficult changes. With someone who loves bebop, it's like swinging Bach. Any music lover will react to that kind of music."
As for Amazon River's genesis, The tunes accumulated over the years," Meurkens states. The album wasn't really planned. There was a tour in March, 2004, and from there it just developed into an album. We wondered if we could record it. My four tunes were already there. We wanted some Jobim tunes. Oscar wanted Dori's 'O Cantador.' I am honored that Oscar is on it. I think this album is my most complete work. It still has jazz improvisation in it, but it also covers many styles in Brazilian music; we have percussion, singing, different settings. Each song has different setting, different soloists."
With Amazon River, we truly realize Hendrik Meurkens' mission: I have to do this. It is my call. It's as if I was born there, in Rio. I am not afraid of the beauty of Brazilian music. I am getting older, and I know what I want. I have been told that my music makes people cry. I get to the point where I play what I would like to hear as a listener. It's about songs, songs, songs! The other stuff is really secondary."