Hendrik Meurkens – Cobb’s Pocket – In + Out Records

by | Oct 28, 2019 | Jazz CD Reviews | 0 comments

Hendrik Meurkens – Cobb’s Pocket – In + Out Records #LC 07588 (Germany) – 50:19 – ****

(Hendrik Meurkens – harmonica; Peter Bernstein – guitar; Mike LeDonne – Hammond B3 organ; Jimmy Cobb – drums)

Hendrik Meurkens is correct in his assertion that the typical Hammond B-3 quartet consists of a tenor sax, guitar, drums, and a Hammond organ. A Hammond trio does not include the sax. The quartet version is typically my favorite, as the tenor sax more fully fleshes out the soulfulness that the organ brings.

Meurkens, in addition to his prowess on the vibraphone, which he teaches at the Berklee School of Music, is a master on the harmonica. Hendrik has wanted for some time to record a Hammond B-3 quartet, with the harmonica as a foil and compatriot, to the guitar/organ combination. On his new CD, Cobb’s Pocket, recorded for the German label, In + Out Records, Meurkens has assembled a dream team of organist, Mike LeDonne, and guitarist, Peter Bernstein, who hone their craft weekly at New York’s Smoke night club. In the drum chair, an obvious choice, is 90 year old drummer, Jimmy Cobb, who is still going strong since 1949. Cobb has played with everybody (!) worth mentioning, and is the last living jazz drummer (including Roy Haynes), who has participated in virtually all the major jazz genres we celebrate.

On this CD, Meurkens and Company are locked into some serious blues. The song selection ranges from tunes from Herbie Hancock, Slide Hampton, and Sam Jones, to classic standards of Henry Mancini, and Jimmy Van Heusen. Hendrik provides three originals. The common quotient is the esteemed Hammond vibe. Bernstein’s guitar licks blend with LeDonne’s grit and polish, and Cobb swings with an effortless grace. Meurkens’ harmonica stirs the pot and fits in, just right. He floats in and out, providing the “grease” that keeps the gears purring, and the Hammond’s valves running like a finely tuned sports car.

Beginning with Hancock’s “Driftin,’” Hendrik’s sweet, but sassy, harmonica brings a welcome change to the typical Hammond session. He proves that the blues harp has a natural space in a jazz setting- just like Toots Thielmans brought for many decades in a more traditional straight ahead fashion. Peter Bernstein, with his spot on understated, but tasty, guitar accompaniment, is a natural choice to respond to the blues harmonica.

Other winners are the aptly named title track with its brisk groove, and “Frame for the Blues,” which has the sexiness of a warm kiss between lovers. Mancini’s “Slow Hot Wind” has a gorgeous Brazilian vibe set by the harmonica and Cobb’s percussive stick work. Sam Jones’ “Unit Seven” goes back to Cobb’s days with Wes Montgomery and Wynton Kelly. This version holds its own with its predecessors.

The CD concludes with Meurkens’ own “A Slow One.” Its languid mood would be welcomed for a late night libation with close friends.

It’s all good to be in Cobb’s pocket, a warm and inviting place for a new version of a Hammond B-3 quartet…

Cobb’s Pocket
Frame for the Blues
Slow Hot Wind
Unit Seven
Polka Dots and Moonbeams
A Slow One

—Jeff Krow

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