Gabriel Espinosa and Hendrik Meurkens: Samba Little Samba
Gabriel Espinosa on bass and vocals
Hendrik Meurkens on harmonica and vibes
Anat Cohen on clarinet and tenor sax
Alison Wedding on vocals
Tierney Sutton on vocals
Misha Tziganov on piano and fender rhodes
Antonio Sanchez on drums
Serge Merlaud on guitar
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 31, 2015
This CD is a fusion of Brazilian samba, along with traditional and contemporary jazz. With a crème de la crème ensemble, of Gabriel Espinosa on bass and vocals, Hendrik Meurkens on harmonica and vibes, Anat Cohen on clarinet and tenor sax, Alison Wedding on vocals, Tierney Sutton on vocals, Misha Tziganov on piano and fender rhodes, Antonio Sanchez on drums, and Serge Merlaud on guitar, this is an album with winning tonality and top quality arrangements. Hendrik Meurkens has been frequently reviewed on these pages, especially since he’s one of the very few jazz harmonica virtuosos. Mr. Meurkens created this album with Mr. Espinosa, who appears on bass and vocals. Although the album is titled for the Brazilian samba genre, the music is eclectic and refreshingly original in its ensemble collaboration. All ten tracks are composed by Mr. Meurkens, Mr. Espinosa, and Mr. Tsiganov (#7), with the exception of “Bésame Mucho” (#4), a sultry favorite. With three vocalists and the incomparable Anat Cohen, on clarinet and sax, you will hear numerous, magnetic harmonies.
#2 – A Song for Ray – Composed by G. Espinosa. This melancholy tune opens with piano and harmonica, supported by earthy bass and drum brushes. Alison Wedding sings lush tones as an additional instrument, before Anat Cohen adds clarinet harmonies, in a clarinet-vocal conversation. The piece ends on high, undulating notes.
#4 – Bésame Mucho – Composed by S. Skylar/C. Velasquez. In an ingenious arrangement, Hendrik’s harmonica takes turns and later blends with Gabriel and Tierney’s vocals, in tropical translucency. The effect is uncluttered, in celebration of this renowned standard. Ms. Sutton’s one appearance on the album is showcased in exquisite etherealness. Serge Merlaud also appears on soulful guitar, with Antonio Sanchez on light drums. This track would be astounding as a brief balletic score.
#5 – Choro da Neve – Composed by H. Meurkens. Ms. Cohen reappears on vivacious clarinet, with Mr. Meurkens on soaring harmonica, Adriano Santos on drums, Misha Tsiganov on piano, and Mr. Espinosa on bass. Here we travel to Carnivale, with dancing rhythms and sizzling syncopations. Mr. Meurkens is a master of the choro genre.
#7 – Give Me Five – Composed by M. Tsiganov. Mr. Tsiganov seizes the moment with his composition, along with Ms. Cohen, now on tenor sax. The sound is decidedly contemporary, with Ms. Wedding and Mr. Espinosa on ambient vocals. Hendrik’s harmonica grabs the listener’s attention, then shifts his spotlight to Anat’s atonal sax and the vocal duo’s smooth effects.