Brazilian jazz and its musical impact is the focus of Celebrando, a collaborative effort between harmonica virtuoso Hendrik Meurkens and bassist Gabriel Espinosa, together with a supporting cast of musical fellow travelers of no mean talent in their own right. In Portuguese and Spanish, the liner notes explain, the album's title means celebrating, and it is indeed a celebration on at least three accounts. It celebrates the general influence of Brazilian ideas on musicians and audiences. It celebrates the influence of Brazilian jazz on this current ensemble of artists who have devoted themselves to the exploration and development of its dynamic possibilities. And finally, it celebrates the 100th album released by the independent New York-based label, Zoho Music.
It is an album worth celebration. Joining Meurkens and Espinoza are Anat Cohen (clarinet, saxophone), Jim Seeley (trumpet, flugelhorn) and Misha Tsiganov (piano). Tsiganov has played on previous Meurkens albums, including last year's recording of his quartet, Live at Bird's Eye. Antonio Sanchez and Mauricio Zottarelli split the work on the drums. Alison Wedding handles vocals, which in this case are wordless vocalise, and Molly Blythe sings back-up.
For me, album's high spots are in the interaction between Cohen and Meurkens as in their mastery of the Choro rhythms in "Frenzelosa (Choro No.2)." They work together like a well oiled machine and emerge with a dynamic sound. There is also some nice vocal (Wedding), harmonica, and clarinet trio work on "Pa Rio," an Espinosa-composed bossa nova. Cohen takes up the tenor sax for a Tsiganov composition, "Out of Reach." Both she and Meurkens turn in some delightful solos, as does the composer himself. The tune builds in excitement to an extended bit for drummer Sanchez. "Maya Roots" has a haunting melody carried through the clarinet. Espinosa talks about "the mood of Mayan music, with the influence of jazz and Brazilian."