Blue Toucan Records, 2004
Listen to Excerpts from All Tracks
2. Amazon River (Dori Caymmi)
4. Passarim (A.C.Jobim/ P.Jobim)
5. Ela é Carioca (A.C.Jobim/ V.de Moraes)
7. O Cantador (Dori Caymmi – Nelson Motta)
8. Meu Canário Vizinho Azul (Toninho Horta)
10. Sem Você (A.C.Jobim-Vinicius de Moraes)
11. Piano na Mangueira (A.C.Jobim/ C.Buarque)
Produced by Oscar Castro-Neves and Hendrik Meurkens
Hendrik Meurkens, harmonica and vibes (on ‘Ela é Carioca’)
Dori Caymmi, vocal and guitar on ‘O Cantador’ and ‘Amazon River’
Paquito D’Rivera, clarinet on ‘The Peach’ and ‘Lingua de Mosquito’
Oscar Castro-Neves, guitar, vocal on ‘Ela é Carioca’ and ‘Sem Voçê’
Helio Alves, piano
Nilson Matta, bass
Duduka Da Fonseca, drums and percussion
Pedro Ramos, cavaquinho
Robson Cerqueira, bandolim on ‘Menina na Janela’
Guilherme Monteiro, guitar on ‘Menina na Janela’
Zé Mauricio, percussion
Jorge Amorim, percussion
Cassio Duarte, percussion
Recorded March, May and June 2004
Amazon River is the culmination of Hendrik Meurkens’ lifelong love of Brazilian music. Although he has recorded Brazilian music many times, this is his first true concept recording, wherein Meurkens focuses on all aspects of the Brazilian sound, from samba to chorinho, supported by both small group and strings.
During a tour of Germany and Finland with Oscar Castro-Neves, Meurkens began putting the pieces together. It started as a Brazilian Quartet project with Helio Alves, Nilson Matta and Duduka da Fonseca but with Oscar as co-producer, they began recording tracks with additional musicians as well, including Dori Caymmi and Paquito D’Rivera.
Meurkens believes that “Amazon River is the ultimate statement about me and my music. It presents the whole picture, from Brazilian influenced Jazz to more traditional music. I feel it’s my best work, with so much variation included within it. My goal was to make the most beautiful album possible and I know that we did.”
“Music is not always meant to make a political statement. Music is just music. When a bird sings, he doesn’t want to change the world. I feel my obligation is to create something of real beauty. There’s no greater statement than that.
All About Jazz Review
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.