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New album from harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens

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Joined: 22 Dec 2010
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    Posted: 10 Oct 2019 at 7:31pm
JAZZ HARMONICA VIRTUOSO HENDRIK MEURKENS 
SWINGS WITH ORGAN TRIO FOR THE FIRST TIME ON 
"COBB'S POCKET," FEATURING JIMMY COBB, 
PETER BERNSTEIN AND MIKE LeDONNE
AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 13, 2019



Born in Germany but based in New York City, HENDRIK MEURKENS is a onetime skilled vibraphone player whose fascination and mastery of the harmonica has made him jazz's most important voice on the instrument since Toots Thielemans. His multi-faceted 40-plus year career - which has found him easing effortlessly back and forth from Brazilian music to straight ahead jazz - has been driven by one simple mission: "I want to create music of great beauty." On his latest release, the cleverly titled COBB'S POCKET - named for the distinctive "time field" of legendary drummer JIMMY COBB -- Meurkens celebrates his 30 years as a recording artist with his first-ever album showcasing the extraordinary, swinging possibilities inherent in the artful pairing of harmonica and organ trio. This unique all-star quartet of storied jazz veterans includes organist MIKE LeDONNE and guitarist PETER BERNSTEIN.
 
Though this is the first time all four have appeared together on the same session, the ensemble's seamless performances and seemingly effortless camaraderie on this collection of five classics and three Meurkens originals are an outgrowth and culmination of their many crossing musical paths. Meurkens' 20+ year history with the 90-year-old Cobb includes several European tours and two previous albums, New York Nights (1999) and Harmonicus Rex (2016). Meurkens first hired Bernstein on his 1994 Concord album Slidin', and has known LeDonne for years via the B-3 player's longtime regular Tuesday night gig with Bernstein at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club on Broadway. About 10 years ago, when Meurkens lived in New Jersey, he and LeDonne recorded several live gigs at Cecil's, a traditional jazz club in West Orange, but never formally released the recordings.
 
"Cobb's Pocket came about because I felt it was finally time to do an organ album," says Meurkens. "The classic organ ensemble is organ, drums, guitar and tenor sax, but I've always felt that the harmonica has the same bluesy, down home blue note vibe and it would sound great if I kept it in the mainstream traditional jazz pocket. Whenever I do this kind of jazz, I get Jimmy, because as part of what I consider the #1 rhythm section along with Paul Chambers, Wynton Kelly and Wes Montgomery, he's my connection to the golden age of jazz. Peter Bernstein to me is the perfect jazz guitarist, tasty and swinging, relaxed like Wes and without playing too many notes, and I'm glad that a recording featuring me and LeDonne finally came to fruition."
 
The session for Cobb's Pocket came together quickly. Knowing he only had a few weeks to get everything together before teaching vibraphone and ensemble again at Berklee for the summer, he gathered the material and reached out to the "cats" he knew could execute his vision of a swingin' organ-harmonica quartet.
 
 Everything was set in motion within a few days. After a single afternoon rehearsal at LeDonne's place, Meurkens, LeDonne and Bernstein met Cobb at Jukebox Studio in Queens (which had a stellar Hammond B-3 and could be booked on short notice). They ran through each tune once for Cobb, and the quartet recorded all the tracks in two days.
 
With a repertoire chosen specifically to fit the group's organ-based dynamic, Cobb's Pocket features a handful of songs Meurkens has long wanted to record, starting with the soulful, easy swinger "Driftin'," a rarely covered tune from Herbie Hancock's 1962 debut Takin' Off, which the leader describes as "a wonderful earworm I heard somewhere." Naturally, Cobb's impeccable timing and love of the groove is what gives the briskly paced original "Cobb's Pocket" its percussive thrust and generates the heat behind the breakneck solos by Meurkens, LeDonne and Bernstein. The harmonicist chose the moody and sophisticated, slow simmering Slide Hampton tune "Frame for the Blues" because he had heard it performed well by organ trios in the past. The next track, "Slidin'," given a playful, jaunty expression in this setting, is one of Meurkens' most renowned compositions.
 
Meurkens lived and performed in Rio in the 80s, and he has a long history playing bossa nova, which is reflected in his extensive discographies on Concord Jazz in the 90s and Zoho Music from the late 2000s to the early 2010s. He pays homage to this side of his artistry with a sultry, struttin' spin through Henry Mancini's hipster 60s gem "Slow Hot Wind." The inclusion of bassist Sam Jones' snappy and spirited "Unit 7" is another logical choice that allows Cobb to bridge time from his first recording of it in 1965 with Montgomery and Kelly to the present. Cobb's Pocket wraps with a gentle, sparsely arranged stroll through the Jimmy Van Heusen ballad "Polkadots and Moonbeams" and the recently penned, dreamy laid back Meurkens original "A Slow Song."    
 
About Hendrik Meurkens
Virtuoso instrumentalist and composer Hendrik Meurkens began his career in Germany playing vibes, and credits Toots Thielemans for his dramatic switch to harmonica. His career has taken him from Brazil to Germany, and throughout Europe, where he became a pivotal force on the studio and jazz scene, composing, recording, and touring extensively with his own ensembles as well as with visiting legends Harry "Sweets" Edison and Buddy Tate. He made his recording debut as a leader with Samba Importado, and his later works with Concord Records established him as a major new voice on the harmonica. Over the years, Meurkens has worked with Ray Brown, Paquito D'Rivera, Oscar Castro-Neves, Herb Ellis, Herbie Mann, James Moody, Charlie Byrd, Ivan Lins, Monty Alexander, Manfredo Fest, Dori Caymmi, Toninho Horta, Astrud Gilberto, Roberto Menescal, Antonio Adolfo, Emilio Santiago and many others.

COBB's POCKET will be available in stores and online everywhere on September 13, 2019. "Polkadots and Moonbeams" was released as a single on August 23, 2019 (http://bit.ly/Polkadots-Meurkens)
 
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