Hendrik Meurkens – Misha Tsiganov: Junity
2014 www.hendrikmeurkens.com - www.mishajazzmusic.com
Hendrik Meurkens on Harmonica
Misha Tsiganov on Piano
Oleg Osenkov on Bass
Willard Dyson on Drums
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 31, 2015
This duo CD is the most grippingly gorgeous of harmonica (Meurkens) and piano (Tsiganov). The harmonica can sound like a violin or accordion, depending on the musician and moment. Hendrik Meurkens is the penultimate pro, a master of the harmonica genre. He’s been reviewed for over a decade on these pages, and he also plays vibes. In a quartet, the harmonica needs its own solo, as it can be overpowered by bass and drums, but, on this lovely recording, both bass (Osenkov) and drums (Dyson) join for six tracks, alternating featured instruments creatively on each. Compositions by Hendrik Meurkens and Misha Tsiganov are complemented by those of Lennon/McCartney, Sonny Rollins, Thelonious Monk, and other fine composers, including none other than the classical genius, Alexander Scriabin.
#4 – Junity – Composed by Hendrik Meurkens. This title track creates an intertwining, in Mr. Meurkens’ composition, of piano and harmonica. Mr. Tsiganov opens the piece for an extended introspective introduction, before Mr. Meurkens’ harmonica joins the theme. That harmonica theme is slow and languid, while the piano creates a faster tempo of versions of the theme. On each listening, you will hear nuances and interchanging tonality. Only the crème de la crème of duo musicians would be able to illuminate a recording spotlight for so long, through thirteen tracks, with lush harmonies.
#7 – Pent Up House – Composed by Sonny Rollins. This rollicking piece by Sonny Rollins brings the recording’s energy up several notches, as Willard Dyson makes his presence known in the opening minute and during a later drum riff. Mr. Meurkens’ harmonica at once morphs into a soprano sax, then a flute, before a long piano solo, joined by Oleg Osenkov on buoyant bass and driven drums, when the harmonica takes a break. This music is first class.
#11 – Scriabin – Composed by Misha Tsiganov. Here, Mr. Tsiganov has composed an homage to Scriabin. Bass and brushes are understated, barely heard, but add subtle texture. There’s a classical quality to this jazz composition, obviously evoking the Etude Op. 2, No. 1 of Scriabin. Mr. Meurkens takes the theme on harmonica, with the piano theme in more rapid tempo, shifting in and out of the same melody. Toward the finale, the musicians synchronize many of the same notes and tones, but in varying rhythms.
#13 – Etude Op. 2, No. 1 – Composed by Alexander Scriabin. This is the actual Scriabin theme that’s so eloquently reimagined in Mr. Tsiganov’s homage above. However, this final track waxes more soulful and sentimental. The reverence is obvious, and I am a huge believer in making classical music available on various instruments and arrangements, to widen audiences and embrace fans of different genres. This Etude is performed almost as a lullaby. After hearing these two reinventions of Scriabin’s Etude, which he wrote in 1887 at the age of fifteen, I listened to Horowitz play it on piano (You Tube). And I learned about this mesmerizing Etude on Junity.