Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hendrik Meurkens and Misha Tsiganov: Junity

Hendrik Meurkens Music
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Junity

Despite Toots Thielemans’ decades-long reign as a master of the jazz harmonica, that particular “mouth organ” remains one of the last instruments one thinks of, when considering our favorite music genre. Well, for much of that same time, German-born Hendrik Meurkens also has been considered a harmonica master, although he began his career playing the vibraphone. After hearing Thielemans, however, Meurkens concentrated on the smaller  instrument. 

He and Russian pianist Misha Tsiganov have performed together for years. Both gained early fame in their home countries; both became immersed in jazz; both attended Boston’s famed Berklee College Of Music; and both ultimately settled in New York City. And, needless to say, both have worked with many of the world’s famous jazz artists. 

On much of this album, the harmonica/piano duo is joined by bassist Oleg Osen Osenkov and drummer Willard Dyson; the former also hails from Russia — and also attended Berklee — while the latter is from San Francisco. 

Like Thielemans, Meurkens plays the chromatic harmonica. While Thielemans concentrated on jazz — playing guitar, harmonica and “whistling” — Meurkens was trained in both classical and jazz genres. This release demonstrates his skill with both. He achieves a pure, clean tone that is second to none, whether performing a ballad (“Ruby My Dear,” “Luiza,” “Close Enough for Love”) or swinging standards (“West Coast Blues,” “Pent Up House,” “Blackbird,” “Norwegian Wood”).

This is one of the finest albums of beautiful, moving jazz, performed by magnificent musicians, that I’ve heard in years. Don’t miss it.

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