Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"When the great wordsmith in the sky invented the word "gorgeous" She might have been thinking of this album, a celebration of all that is lovely about Brazilian music, from samba and choro through bossa nova and jazz.
On the face of it, Hendrik Meurkens is not the most likely outsider to have gotten so deep inside the Brazilian tradition. Of Dutch ancestry, he was brought up in the grimy German port of Hamburg - about as far as you can get, literally and figuratively, from Sugar Loaf Mountain and Copacabana beach. But he's no cultural tourist or superficial fusionista. After leaving college in the early '80s, already in love with Brazilian music, he moved to Rio so as to immerse himself more totally in it.
Meurkens is today regarded as a soul brother by many of Brazil's leading musicians, some of whom contribute to this wonderfully joyful and restorative album. And if you're thinking the harmonica is an acquired taste, there can surely be no better place to acquire it. Meurkens' playing is a revelation: lyrical, expressive, and more harmonically adventurous than a casual listening might suggest.
What we have on Amazon River is a series of ravishingly beautiful melodies, underscored by Brazil's uniquely subtle and irresistible dance rhythms. The core of the band is made up of Meurkens, pianist Helio Alves, bassist Nilson Matta, and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca. On all but two tracks, this quartet is joined by some of Brazil's greatest percussion and string players. Guest guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves also contributes sympatico string arrangements to three tracks.
Lush, sunlit, and vibrantly coloured from start to finish, every track is a little masterpiece. Randomly selected highlights include Meurkens' exquisite chorinhos "Menina Na Janela," featuring Robson Cerqueira on bandolim, a Brazilian version of the mandolin; deep tenor vocalist Dori Caymmi's rapturous love songs "Amazon River" and "O Cantador"; the core quartet's more or less straight-ahead jazz workouts "Passarim" and "Meu Canario Vizinho Azul"; the virile and loose-limbed samba "Piano Na Mangueira"; and Jobim & Moraes' classic bossa nova "Ela E Carioca," on which Meurkens exchanges the harmonica for the vibraphone.
49 minutes rarely pass so quickly - but you can always hit the repeat button. I've been doing that all afternoon." -AllAboutJazz
Down Beat (p.76) - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "Meurkens gets the chance to show off his chops to a greater degree on a trio of original tunes built on bubbling choro rhythms."
JazzTimes (p.97) - "Meurkens digs deeply into the harmonic traditions and a complementary blend of melodic sensuality and virtuosity."
Personnel: Hendrik Meurkens (harmonica, vibraphone); Dori Caymmi , Oscar Castro-Neves (vocals, guitar); Guilherme Monteiro (guitar); Robson Cerqueira (bandolim); Pedro Ramos (cavaquinho); Paquito D'Rivera (clarinet); Hélio Alves (piano); Nilson Matta (double bass); Duduka Da Fonseca (drums, percussion); Jorge Amorim, Zé Maurício, Cassio Duarte (percussion).
Hendrik Meurkens grew up in Germany and attended Berklee College of Music in the United States, but his primary musical passion has long been Brazilian music. Already a virtuoso on harmonica (and the first serious rival to Toots Thielemans on the instrument), he is in terrific form throughout this session. Meurkens gathered a number of the top Brazilian players to join him, featuring the well-known vocalist and guitarist Doryi Cayimmi on a brisk, passionate take of "Amazon River" and the equally warm "O Cantador." Another popular Brazilian guitarist, Oscar Castro-Neves, guests on two of Antonio Carlos Jobim's compositions, the samba "Piano Na Manqueira" and "Ela é Carioca," while Cuban clarinetist Pacquito D'Rivera trades licks with the leader in the joyful choro "Lingua de Mosquito." Meurkens also doubles on vibes on one track. This is a delightful date from start to finish. ~ Ken Dryden