The remarkable jazz harmonica wizard, Hendrik Meurkens, may be best known for his magic in the realm of Brazilian jazz, but on his latest release, "Harmonicus Rex," his focus is on straight ahead jazz. On this session he is joined by the legendary Jimmy Cobb on drums, along with bassist Marco Panascia and pianist Dado Moroni. Joe Magnarelli on trumpet and Anders Bostrom on alto flute are each heard on four of the eleven tracks (one on which they both are heard). The program on this release are five originals as well as six interpretations of standards.
Meurkens' "Mundell's Mood" is a bright, swinging number that opens this with the leader and Magnarelli stating the theme before the trumpeter takes the first solo before Meurkens takes the first of his solos on his chromatic harmonica with his melodic invention and horn like phrasing (if not tone) at the fore before a break from Moroni with Magnarelli and the leader trading fours prior to the coda. Its the beginning of a delightful, and wide-ranging, recording with the rhythm section exemplary throughout. The groove of Meurkens' "Slidin'" has Meurkens sounding a bit more wistful at first before he solos vigorously followed by Bostrom's lovely flute.
Moroni rumbles a bit to set the mood for a lovely quartet rendition of Dave Brubeck's "In Your Own Sweet Way." Then there is a lovely, bluesy original ballad performance, "Afternoon" with Magnarelli on flugelhorn contributing to the mood that Meurkens' engenders here. Both Magnarelli and Bostrom are present for the lively rendition of Milt Jackson's blues, "SKJ," while Meurkens' fluidity, melodic playing and invention is showcased on the Rodgers-Hart classic "Falling in Love With Love," with Moroni and Panascia also showcased. "A Summer in San Francisco" is a lovely, lazy original that features Bostrom while Magnarelli adds his bright tone to a relaxed, rendition of Freddie Hubbard's "Up Jumped Spring."
The album closes with marvelous quartet performances of the standards "Darn That Dream" and "What's New." And one cannot emphasize how exceptional the rhythm section is throughout nearly one hour of delightful, straight-ahead jazz on "Harmonicus Rex."
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review originally appeared in the May-June 2016 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 366). Here Hendrik Meurkens performs "Darn That Dream."