Growing up in Hamburg, Germany, Hendrik Meurkens? parents exposed him to the music of Benny Goodman performing with Lionel Hampton, which immediately attracted Meurkens to the vibraphone. As a teenager, Meurkens became enamored of Toots Thielemans?harmonica playing and was hooked. Normally, the harmonica is used in folk music and the vibraphone for children's music, but Hendrik Meurkens?music breaks both of these stereotypes and shows how the harmonica and vibraphone can be used to make classic Brazilian jazz parfaits. His latest release Sambatropolis, as you may guess, is based on samba-soaked rhythms compounded by classic bebop sashays influenced by jazz luminaries like Charlie Parker and Dexter Gordon. The harmonies are spot on and the melodies produce a laid-back jazz padding perfect for nightclub moods.
Sambatropolis opens with the title track heralding jangly instrumentation and quick pulsating notes from the vibraphone. The conga line of horns in "Nem La Nem Ca" sprinkles the tune with exuberance, and the cha-cha momentum of "The Bee" produces a fast-paced flouncing action through the chord dynamics. The slinky rhythms of "Ocean Light" has a bossa nova-fluxing, and the cuddling of horns and harmonica lines on "Fotografia" are sealed with cozy breezy rhythms. Many of the compositions have a cozy feel and soft nightclub mood like "Voce Vai Ver" and "A Summer in San Francisco." The graceful piano keys of "You Don't Know What Love Is" renders a candlelit ambience with a glint of torchlight horns while the upbeat tempos of "Hot and Stuffy" and "Bernie'sTune?have jolly phrasings with the latter loaded by spicy horns and tangy vibes. The track "Choro da Neve" may remind you of polka-stylized rhythms furnished with lacy harmonica spurts, but they are chorinho-fitted jolts, which gives this tune very ethnic feeling environs.
Meurkens enjoys taking jazz standards like "Bernie's Tune" and adding samba frills to the melody. He is a craftsman that improves on existing models making them greater than they were before. He tells in a press release, "I feel completely comfortable within the Brazilian style especially on harmonica. That instrument with Brazilian jazz is a complete natural." Meurkens has spent the last 17-years showing that the relationship between the harmonica and vibraphones with Brazilian and straight-ahead jazz compositions is complementing. Sambatropolis is released by the indie label Zoho Music.