Hendrick Meurkens, the Dutch born harmonica player who's widely considered the heir to the Toots Thielemans legacy, is no slouch on the vibes, either. Here he joins some of the top Brazilian artists on the New York jazz scene to produce a CD of (mostly) joyful music. The sole exception is Jobim's "Luisa," arguably the most poignant and fluid melody he ever wrote, which becomes a tender duet between Meurkens and the fine pianist Helio Alves. Otherwise, the CD offers catchy renditions of familiar Brazilian standards, occasionally adding unexpected elements, like the bassy funk to "A Ra." There are also fresh Brazilian treatments of North American standards: Meurkens's soulful harp is featured on Lee Morgan's "Ceora," and his sultry vibes on Miles Davis's "Solar," where drummer Portinho and bassist Torben Westergaard also shine in the spotlight. The bouncy, winsome treatments of "S'Wonderful" and "Some Day My Prince Will Come" are delightful standouts; curiously, a similar treatment of "Sentimental Mood" seems a little stretched. The spirit of Rio lives in "Rapaz de Bem," which evokes a fast, two-seater drive around its famous curves, with mountains and jungle and beach zipping by. All hands are terrific throughout, their seamless and friendly interplay laced through with the wonderful native rhythms and sensibility of Portinho, master percussionist Cyro Baptista, and the ever-tasteful, first-call guitarist Romero Lubambo. This is real Brazil and real jazz, woven together with exuberance and grace.
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AllMusic Review by Judith Schlesinger