Gabriel Espinosa & Hendrik Meurkens – Samba Little Samba – Zoho Music

Gabriel Espinosa & Hendrik Meurkens – Samba Little Samba – Zoho Music ZM 201 1410, 56:32 ****:

(Gabriel Espinosa – bass, vocals; Hendrik Meurkens – harmonica, vibes; Anat Cohen – clarinet #2, 5 – tenor sax# 3, 7; Alison Wedding – vocals except #4, 5; Tierney Sutton – vocals #4; Misha Tsiganov – piano, fender rhodes; Antonio Sanchez – drums # 2, 4, 6, 8, 10; Adriano Santos – drums # 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, percussion; Serge Merlaud – guitar #4)

As summer winds down, what could be better than a sunny upbeat album entitled Samba Little Samba? The collaboration between the Mexican bassist /vocalist Gabriel Espinosa, and the towering Dutch/German vibist/harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens, for a selection of Brazilian flavoured jazz numbers, is an infectious concoction.

Following their 2012 release which was called Celebrando, the two principals share the composing chores equally, with a couple of numbers from other reliable sources. The title track “Samba Little Samba” opens the proceedings and it is a charming little samba with an alternating vocal between Espinosa and Alison Wedding, with Meurkens’ harmonica adding flavour over the harmonic underpinnings. “A Night In Jakarta” is a Meurkens original with Wedding carrying the vocal with richness. Anat Cohen, who is mostly known for her clarinet work, takes up the tenor sax to add her interesting voice to the composition.

That old war horse “Besame Mucho” is reprised here as Tierney Sutton works her magic on the English lyric, with Espinosa carrying the Spanish version. All in all, this is a delightful version of the number. “Choro Da Neve” is a Brazilian chorinho (little lament) full of syncopation and counterpoint, and is a clarinet feature for Anat Cohen which she covers in a tastily satisfying fashion. One might wonder how Russian-born pianist Misha Tsiganov managed to find his Brazilian sensibilities which are on display with his composition “Give Me Five”. He has worked with Meurkens in his Samba Jazz Quartet since 2007, and thus started to pickup the baseline traditions of the music. In this 5/4 time signature for his composition, he has combined voice, harmonica, and tenor sax for an imaginative and nimble effect. The album closes with “Euro 12” an Espinosa tune that was inspired in some way by composer’s attachment to soccer although that is not necessarily discernible in the song’s structure. Perhaps the drumming of Antonio Sanchez brings to mind the interplay among the team members on the soccer pitch.

All in all this release is a lighthearted little earful.

TrackList: Samba Little Samba; A Song For Ray; A Night In Jakarta; Besame Mucho; Choro Da Neve; Fe; Give Me Five; Ocean Lights; Encuentro Maya; Euro 12

—Pierre Giroux

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