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Today in Music – August 6, 1957 – Harmonica and Vibes Virtuoso Hendrick Meurkens was born!!

Live at Bird's EyeOn this day, August  6, 1957  vibraphonist and chromatic harmonica virtuoso Hedrick Meurkens was born to Dutch parents in Hamburg, Germany. Meurkens was listed on today’s birthday list at All About Jazz as a harmonica player . When I went to Spotify to listen to his music, I started with his new release Junity, which opens with a nice rendition of The Beatles “Blackbird”. I listened to a few more tracks and then went to the next album his 2011 release Live at Bird’s Eye. As I listened to the album, I thought. boy, he sure is nice to give that vibes player so much time! Well, I thought he is pretty damn good! After I listened a little more and really liked the album, I went to Hendrick’s website, where I read that…….

Hendrik Meurkens, a virtuoso on both the chromatic harmonica and the vibraphone, is the most important jazz harmonica player since Toots Thielemans. German-born but now based in New York, Meurkens’ recordings and performances garner worldwide acclaim because the transcendent beauty of his music has universal appeal.

A two-mallet player in the tradition of Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson, Hendrik Meurkens was en-route to being an instantly recognizable vibraphonist when he heard Toots Thielemans. Inspired by the sound of Thielemans’ harmonica, he taught himself the difficult-to-master instrument.

Let’s see Toots Thielmans, Milt Jackson, and Bobby Hutcherson, no wonder I liked this guy!!  Reading on I discovered that Meurkens started out as a vibraphonist, and didn’t start playing the harmonica until he was 19, and heard Toots Thielemans!

Meurkens left Germany to study at the Berklee , after completing his studies, he was introduced and became enthralled with Brazilian music. So in the early 80s Hendrick was off to Rio, to immerse himself in the music and culture of Brazil. He even learned Portuguese! He’s do great, here, in Riverside, NJ!!

By 1983 he was working as a studio musician, recording with various European Radio Orchestras, leading his own groups and (take a breath) also accompanying visiting musicians the likes of Harry ‘Sweets’ Edison and Buddy Tate. Obviously, not one to sit still (does any jazz musician??) by 1993 Meurkens was back in the “Big Apple” after signing an exclusive contract with Concord Records. That union has resulted in fifteen plus albums! From his website biography….

As a featured artist, Henrcik has recorded with Charlie Byrd, Jimmy Cobb, Ivan Lins, Monty Alexander, Claudio Roditi, Manfredo Fest and Mundell Lowe, as well as backing such leading artists as Astrid Gilberto and Olivia Newton John and touring with the Ray Brown Trio, Paquito D’Rivera, Oscar Castro Neves, Herb Ellis, Herbie Mann, Charlie Byrd, and James Moody among many others.

Throughout the day today I’ve listened on Spotify to several tracks from various albums and enjoyed them all! On both Junity and Live at Bird’s Eye, I was, in addition to Hendrick, impressed by Hendricks friend and Berklee alum Misha Tsiganov’s piano playing, I even went and listened to some of his solo work and I plan on doing a little more exploring of his music. So check them out!! Oh, and Happy Birthday, Hendrick!!

Hendrik Meurkens Website
Misha Tsiganov
Wikipedia (German)

Here’s a performance of “Luiza” by Hendrik Meurkens and Misha Tsiganov!